Sunday, October 14, 2007

BOOK ARTS: Claire Van Vliet and Landscape

Nancy Reid is a neighbor to book artist Claire Van Vliet in Newark, Vermont. She recently "rehabbed" her classic New England barn to create a gallery explicitly dedicated to landscape -- and chose work by Van Vliet for the opening exhibit.

Describing Van Vliet's path from papermaking at the Twinrocker paper Mill in Indiana, to creating her own handmade papers for use in her limited edition books, to literally painting with the pulp during the papermaking process, Reid commented that "The sinking of the color into the paper pulp makes for a texture of great luminosity and extreme sensuousness."

For the Maple Ridge Gallery exhibit this fall, Van Vliet provided images of the "primal land" of northwestern Ireland, where she toured in 1983. Her excursions into the rugged back-country extended from a month-long stay at Ballycastle in County Mayo for an arts festival. Van Vliet writes:

The coastal landscape in County Mayo feels similar to the American West, with distant horizons. This vastness hooked my imagination. Yet in Mayo, it is an illusion of vastness, as the actual distances are not that great. There is a human scale and the palpable presence of the five thousand years of people shaping the landscape... Even after fourteen years, the material gathered in that period is a well that continues to feed my work.

Van Vliet's images of wildlands crossed with human purposes mesh well with the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where she chose to situate her book arts as The Janus Press. (Hr awards for The Janus Press are many, and she was given a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in 1989.) I find their dark exhilaration to be the perfect counterweight for exploring the precise and balanced type and design work of, for instance, her Gospel of Mary (see our web site,, for photos and a video of this powerful construction). Moreover, the sense of this well of vision enhances the experience of Van Vliet's body of book arts as a whole.

Kingdom Books offers a signed copy of the Claire Van Vliet exhibit catalogue for "Primal Land - Northwest Ireland."

And for more information on Reid's gallery, contact her directly: Nancy C. Reid, Maple Ridge Gallery, 1713 Maple Ridge Road, Newark VT 05871 (802-467-8400; also, although the web site was not yet active at the time of this writing).

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