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A Literary Sculpture Garden

‘Exploded Library’ at Salvaged Studio and Gallery

Oct. 14, 2013
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Nestled in the Northwest Side’s arts and crafts district, Rachael Brooke Winkley’s Salvaged Studio and Gallery (1409 N. 54th St.) features art and accessories made by Brooke Winkley and other artists. Salvaged is dedicated to the display and sale of fine art, crafts and accessories made from repurposed materials, including vintage tea tins, recycled clothing and furniture.

Through Oct. 26, Salvaged features Chicago artist Betsy Birkey. For her exhibit, “Exploded Library,” Birkey applied meticulous, origami-esque folding techniques to more than 20 discarded books to create sculptures featuring geometric and wave-form designs
Although the stunning 3D images created from the folded pages are certainly of greatest visual interest, look closely to discover clever parallels between Birkey’s subject matter and that of the literature she has converted. In Do-It-Yourself, for instance, the artist used an antique home building project manual. Triangle motifs figure prominently in the sculpture, providing minute windows into the illustrated instructions and harking to the arrow shapes so often found in such manuals. In another stunning example, Reference in Russian, Birkey converts a book written in Russian to a curvilinear sculpture whose form suggests Cyrillic script.

Historicity also figures prominently in some of the works, as in the three-part series Bert’s Life for which the artist converted small travel logs (dated between 1962-71) into faintly globe-like shapes. Much of the log keeper’s original penciled notation is still visible, making the human touch all the more apparent and temporally transcendent.

Birkey’s folding methods are varied, but a particularly impressive, recurrent technique stems from her ability to fold pages so that the text shows densely in some places and sparsely in others. This is employed to great effect in Heart, a sculpture with an overall shape reflecting its title, along with as an inset mouth-like form delineated by a section of dense text.

Precise and innovative, Birkey’s “Exploded Library” is a can’t-miss attraction on your next trip to the Vliet Street neighborhood.


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