By Indra Arriaga
Susan Joy Share is a master of books. In her exhibit “Doing Doing” that opens at Bivy on Friday, August 2, 2019, Share and Simonetta Mignano (proprietor and curator) form a perfect complement that takes on the exploration of books as an ever-evolving form. The basic concept of a book, a noun defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers,” is fair enough, but falls terribly short to what viewers will see and experience at Bivy this month. The “books” in the exhibit are, according to Mignano, “intuitive, personal, and layered stories.” A visit to Share’s studio confirms that Mignano is absolutely right.
Share came to Alaska in the late 1990s armed with tools, training, and ideas. Share’s interest in books started early on at College of Ceramics at Alfred in New York, where she was under the tutelage of John C. Wood, a printmaker and photographer who also pushed the limits of process and media. The works presented in ‘Doing Doing’ are a sample of Share’s personal evolution. The exhibit is not a retrospective, but does present some work that is pivotal in Share’s career and also gives viewers insight into her growth as an artist.
“The selection has been made in a way that the exhibit reflects on Share’s work in a biographical sense. Her body of work is extensive and curating the show with this sort of autobiographical key I believe is fascinating,” says Mignano.
One of the things that is nice about the exhibit is that one can literally see the works laid out on a surface like a landscape of form and time. The books as art objects are fun, interesting, and very tempting to touch (but please don’t touch).
‘Doing Doing’ includes elaborate, hand-sewn books that include paintings, self-portraits, writing, prints and collages on paper. Some of the works are making their debut in this exhibit. The art pieces vary significantly from one another, a testament to what a varied career and diversity of thought yields; several are a singular in focus, completed in condensed work periods, others reflect more recent experiences influenced by the Alaskan landscape and the environmental phenomena that are quickly changing perceptions of “normal” Alaskan climate.
One of the pieces that will draw viewers is Wax Book, canvas pages imbedded in wax, from 1977. Mignano selected this piece because it is Share’s first “book-ouvre” and it is beautiful. For the artist, she wanted to capture the “bookishness of things” in this work. By “bookishness”, she means that it is an object with “Parts that have hinges and moves front to back, that uses both sides of something, something that has a point of binding and movement.”
Shares imagines that the functionality of the piece would serve both as a place from which to read and an interesting object for the reader to hold.
‘Doing Doing’ inevitably reflects on the labor-intensive and consistency of Share’s practice through the decades. The art pieces are carefully developed, the concepts are thoughtful and her experience makes the bookworks personal and accessible at the same time. Share ruminates on the state of the world through her finely crafted works that make statements that are loud and clear, and yet there is a quietude to her work that invites viewers to enter her process through their own introspection. By including the print series, ‘Doing Nothing’, Share drives home the point that “doing nothing” is not as easy as it sounds. Often times the phrase simply masks a different, perhaps more solitary process, or the desire to not share one’s private thoughts in order to gain a sense privacy, intimacy, or just healthy alone time. The ‘Doing Nothing’ series relates to societal and political implications and the demand most face to “do something” or be productive, or be always busy. Share spends a lot of time “doing”, which she ironically depicts as ‘Doing Nothing’.
To bookend the exhibit (pun intended reluctantly), Share will also exhibit some pieces from her recent residency at the McKinley Chalet Resort, just outside Denali Park. This summer marked Share’s third time at the artist residency but this time her focus was very different. In the last two residencies, Share focused on producing a single work each time, but in this recent one, she experimented a lot more; she says she focused on having more fun and taking a looser approach. Her prolific practices resulted in a series of crumpled and distress paper-scapes that resemble the topographical distress felt in the sky and land as climate change continues to alter the globe.
Susan Joy Share: Doing Doing
419 G Street, Suite 100
Anchorage, AK 99501
First Friday Opening: August 2, 2019 at 5:30 PM
The exhibit runs the months of August and September