By Zelda Hurd
“I hope to raise questions about these changes, the ephemeral and fragile nature in which we now obtain knowledge, and the future of books.”-Cara Barer
Cara Barer is an American Artist from Texas born in 1956 who transforms old books into a form that is very beautiful. Barer uses books that have been abandoned and that no longer have a purpose. She has seen the shift of books and how technology is taking over the physicality of having a book. Cara hopes to make her viewers think about the fragile aspect of books. Another inspiration came from yellow pages that she saw soaked from rain on the ground outside and intrigued by the new form it created she documented the book using photography. Barer examines the books before starting her process and depending on the content she sometimes will leave the book the way it is. Barer explains that she sometimes arrives with her image by chance through experimentation, using clothing pins, curling irons, water and dye. Creating by chance and not as planned allows her to create her artworks with flow. She says that sometimes she catches herself reading the book, instead of creating art. She then captures her book sculptures with photography to document and symbolize how fragile the physicality of books are and that technology is taking over for every resource.
Cara Barer has been showcasing her work in Canada and the United States since 1994 and her most recent exhibition is called Scrapbooks. It is the first exhibition of monograph of her sculptures. She has taken memories, such as pictures, and guest traveling books, and made a book out of them, and then starts her process of turning that book of memory into something new. Her thesis for this exhibition is “ that a book is never broken, and memory never lost, only made anew with time.” This exhibition is dedicated to the flood in Houston Texas. As she continues this journey of creating abstract art with books, she hopes to capture a lot of information.
Jacqueline Rush Lee an artist from Hawaii, has a very similar art concept as Cara Barer, she states that these books aren’t being ruined, they are given a new life. Lee creates her form using experimentation too, but she uses a kiln- firing approach. She fires each book in a different temperature and this depends on the book itself. Lee discovered that the books made in 1940s and 1950s had a better paper quality that holds up better in the heat of the kiln. One of her books called Absolute Depth changes form before the viewer by decaying and dissolving in water, as an example of transformation. Like Barer, Lee only uses old, books and volumes that she then buys a lot of.
Both artists use books that have content, in which they gain their inspiration. Barer looks at the book before she starts her experimentation in a way of remembering the book in it’s old form before its transformation and Lee uses the content of her book for inspiration and only uses the book if the contents resonate with her.