Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Line of Sight: Book Artist Timothy C. Ely Exhibits at Museum of Arts & Culture

A spectacular exhibition of the artist's books will dazzle and awe.

by Stephen J. Gertz

Binding the Book: The Right into Egypt (1984).
Leather, papyrus, glass, linen, Egyptian soil,
pigments, resins, wax.

Artist Timothy C. Ely creates lavishly painted and drawn, unique manuscript books and limited edition prints integrating Western and Eastern religious and mystical traditions, astronomy, particle physics, cartography, alchemy and sacred geometry, and has developed bookbinding tools and equipment for the 21st century.

Halo Chalice (2005).
Ink, pigments, wax on paper.

Breon Mitchell, Director of the Lilly Library and professor of Germanic studies and Comparative Literature at Indiana University's College of Arts is a huge fan, so much so that he undertook a major campaign to get the Lilly to include Ely's work in their permanent collection.

“To me, what’s happening [with Ely's work] is a sort of meditation on... the way we think and the way we perceive...I see a lot of books — and a lot of artist books. Tim Ely’s looked like nothing else I’d seen before,” he declares.

Materia (1995).
Traditional wood board binding
on five raised cords. Leather, glass,
brass, hand made paper serpent,
pigments, resins, wax.

Nicholas Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness, the critically acclaimed volume about book collecting, is also an Ely enthusiast.

“I was dazzled by the work,” he says.  “The skill is apparent in everything he does and the thought that goes into it. He is a major player in this world.”

Tables of Aries (2006).
Interior spread, one of six.
Graphite, acrylic paint, pastels, ink.

Ely began his book arts career in 1971 after graduating college with a degree in design and printmaking. He asserts that his inspiration began in the late 1950s, when he was ten years old.

Mercury 9 (1999).
Drum leaf binding, etchings,
polyurethane, pigment, leather, wax.

"I had this archetypal dream where I saw a book - it was about ten, twelve inches square - just full of drawings and instructions on how to build things," he says. "And in that dream, I held this book and I thought, 'With this book in my hand I could build all these devices.' I awoke and, of course, no book, and so I tried to make it. Sometimes I think I'm still trying to make that book."

Black Maps (1996).
Tongue-in-slot board attachment,
leather spine, mahogany boards,
acrylic paint, and metals.

His work is extraordinary; we hope he keeps trying to make that book.

Here's a lengthy video about Ely and his work:

"Line of Sight" is currently showing at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC) through April 16, 2011, 2316 W. First Avenue, Spokane, WA.

Read a full account of Ely, his work,  and Line of Sight here.

Images courtesy of Timothy C. Ely, with our thanks.

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