KEEP: Modern Library is a project and series inspired by withdrawn library books, Japanese textiles, the art of mending, and a KEEP stamp that was discarded from a library. One particular book, Records Management: A Collegiate Course in Filing Systems and Procedures, has been my muse throughout the project as she represents a once useful book that has become obsolete and has no place in the college library where she resided since 1974. Nonetheless, the book is endearing to me for its bookness: design, color scheme, endpapers, graphic images and outdated office scenes. Imagery from that book floats through all the pieces in this series like apparitions.
All the bookcloth and book pages in this project are from one library’s weeding project of their circulating collection. This series is in no way a criticism of libraries. Weeding projects are conducted in an educated, informed and thoughtful manner and are necessary for the health of library collections. These books are no longer useful or relevant and many are damaged or contain outdated information.
Although these books are no longer useful, as they were originally intended, they are no less dear to me in many ways. I find myself hopelessly enamored of scientific illustrations or the ombre fading of the book cloth or the brittle yellow tape used in a dated repair. Like stray dogs I wanted to take them all home and many did follow me back to my studio and eventually became part of this Modern Library. Some of them have been given new life in pieces that I think possess beauty and others, in an attempt to make something useful out of the combined dead, have become monsters like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation.
KEEP: Modern Library is an ongoing project that will continue to explore the different ways we keep things (physically and emotionally), the importance of keeping things, and the equally important process of letting them go.
Jody Alexander, M.S. Library Science, B.A. Art History, is an artist, bookbinder, librarian and teacher who lives and works in Santa Cruz, California. She binds books with found and discarded papers and fabric in a number of historical and modern binding styles, and rescues discarded books and gives them new life as scrolls, wall pieces and sculptural objects. Her pieces celebrate collecting, storytelling, and odd characters. Her characters, books, sculptural pieces and found items are often combined to create installations.
Jody is the 2015 recipient of the Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship and she has taught book arts at San Francisco Center for the Book, The Center for the Book in New York City and University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work appears in a number of publications including Masters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading Artist, 500 Handmade Books, and 1000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art.