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Booked Up in Southampton

Mon, 02/19/2024 - 15:38
In "East End Bonac IV," Karyn Mannix uses a pile of books to comment on the East End.

"There is no friend as loyal as a book," said Ernest Hemingway, and Christina Strassfield, always a bookworm, would agree. 

Soon after she took over the helm of the Southampton Arts Center, Ms. Strassfield had a visit from Ellen Wiener, a North Fork artist in whose work books and the written word figure prominently.  

"When I said I'd like to do a book show, Ellen encouraged me," said Ms. Strassfield during a recent conversation. "In my head, I started writing down all the people who came to mind." The arts center's program committee approved the idea, and "it just fell together very quickly."

"Look at the Book," the second show organized by Ms. Strassfield since becoming the center's executive director, will open Saturday with work by 33 artists, featuring almost as many different takes on The Book, as a visit to the exhibition's staging area revealed.

It makes sense that Paul Vogel, an East Hampton bookbinder, is in the show, represented by a multi-volume edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. "They're beautiful," said Ms. Strassfield, noting that the last component is a disc drive containing the entire dictionary. "Paul said of the disc drive that at some point it will be obsolete, but you'll always be able to open the books. I love that."

Mr. Vogel's daughter, Hadley, is also in the show, with, said Ms. Strassfield, "more avant-garde books. I like how bookbinding runs from one generation to the next, with a different approach."

Barbara Slate, who is one of the few female artists to have created, written, and drawn comics for both DC and Marvel Comics, will be represented by her graphic novel about Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide under Donald Trump who provided important testimony to Congress about the conduct of the president and his aides on the day of the attack on the Capitol.

Ms. Strassfield heard of many of the artists showing in "Look at the Book" through word of mouth. Karyn Mannix, for example, told her about Chip Haggerty, who lives in Vermont. One of his pieces is a carpet that's also a book; another is a sleeping bag that can be read.

Donald Lipski will show a circular sculpture made entirely of books about sex and love, while the works of Barry Holden of Sag Harbor and an artist from New York City who goes by the name of 00100011 [HASHTAG] deal with banned books.

Other artists in the show are Anita Balkun, Mary Ellen Bartley, Stephanie Brody-Lederman, John Buchbinder, Neke Carson, Carolyn Conrad, AG Duggan, Patricia Feiwel, Dorothy Frankel, Carol Hunt, Elaine de Kooning, Christa Maiwald, Karyn Mannix, Richard Minsky, Jennie Nichols, Alfonso Ossorio, Erin Parsch, Goran Petmil, Joe Pintauro, Gabriele Raacke, Randall Rosenthal, Dan Welden, Halsted S. Welles, Julie Wolfe, and Nina Yankowitz.

"I hope people will come and think about the idea of books," said Ms. Strassfield. "Are books obsolete? I'm of the old school. I love paper. I love to have a book in hand. Banned books is an issue that has come up for so many people." 

On April 20, the arts center will screen "The ABCs of Book Banning," an Academy Award-nominated short film focusing on those impacted by books banned from school districts. It will be followed by "Libraries Today and Tomorrow," a panel discussion with Elizabeth Burns, the director of the Rogers Memorial Library, and other librarians.

The center's website has a complete list of public programs while the exhibition is up, through May 4.

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