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Book as Art XIV: Temptations


The allure of food, love, money, and other permitted and forbidden pleasures are explored in the exhibition Book as Art XIV: Temptations, on view through January 5, 2003 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts' Library and Research Center. The 73 paintings, drawings, and distinctive books by 37 artists will focus on temptations that are ever enticing to humans. (left: Anne Buguet, Night of the Enchanted Gourds, 1998, gouache on paper, 14 x 20 1/2 inches, On loan from the artist)

Food has seductive associations with relationships, love, and sex. Molly Van Nice's book installation Dinner with Mr. Dewey presents a lavish meal of sculpted books, all classified according to the Dewey Decimal system. Delicious-looking chocolate pastries represent the intellectual nourishment provided by the act of reading. Katherine Glover's book Green Salad takes the shape of a bowl of salad that had been prepared by the artist's lover, which was then left untouched when romance intervened. Carrots Anyone? by Susan Share lures the viewer with its inviting display of carrots, offering the vegetable tidbits like a box of chocolates for a sweetheart.

The aesthetics and allure of preparing food are evident in still lifes such as Patricia Tobacco Forrester's brilliantly-colored Hot Peppers and in Elena Vidotto's more reflective Turnips. A fond food memory of poet Diane Wakoski inspired artist Ellen Lanyon's imaginative illustrations for the book Making a Sacher Tort. Lanyon's own illustrated recipes are also represented in the exhibition.

The most famous forbidden pleasure, the apple, is explored alongside other symbols from the Judeo-Christian tradition in several works, including Lorraine Grace's canvas Three Apples. Wewer Keohane's book-sculpture It Wasn't the Apple is a defense of the much-maligned fruit. In Betty Sweren's book The Snake and Katherine Glover's book Snake Skin, the seducer of Eve is the main focus of attention. (left: Molly Van Nice, Dinner with Mr. Dewey, 2001-2002, installation with altered books, wood, papier mache, leather, paper, glass, drawing linen, acrylic paint, graphite, ink, fish spine, and wine bottle, 32 x 42 x 20 inches, On loan from the artist)

Darker temptations such as the desire to destroy and the lure of money are also addressed in the exhibition. Sandra Jackman's book On the Darkling Plain was inspired by the 19th-century poem Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold. The illustrations of fears and nightmares surrounding a panic caused by an unexpected attack were created in 2000 After the September 11th, 2001 tragedy, the book carries even more power with its pages that are burned, torn, and covered with ashes. In Selected by Vera Khlebnikova the artist affixed Russian currency to the pages of her work. It illustrates the power of money in Russian society and the desire to quickly acquire material goods.

Book As Art XIV: Temptations is organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, with funds provided by the Library Fellows. Curator of the exhibition is Krystyna Wasserman, director of the Library and Research Center. A color catalogue of the exhibition may be purchased in the museum's shop.

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