A three-dimensional map of Moscow, constructed of burnt pieces of literature and poems, is framed and mounted on a wall in the Fine Arts Gallery located in the Fine Arts Building at SF State.
The scene is artist Matthew Picton’s depiction of a fire set ablaze by Napoleon’s army in 1812. A quote from “War and Peace” lingers in bold red letters at the bottom of the map, “The comet which was said to portend all manner of horrors and the end of the world.”
This is one of the pieces displayed as a part of the Illuminated Library exhibit, which opened Saturday Sept. 21. About 30 people gathered at SF State for the opening ceremony to see the exhibit that showcases carefully selected art pieces from the Archives and Special Collections from the J. Paul Leonard Library and other pieces from the California-owned Sutro Library.
“I think this is a great opportunity for students to come and see professional artists and their work,” said Sharon Bliss, curator of the exhibit and the Fine Arts Gallery manager at the University.
The central thread that tied the artwork together were books, or pages from books, and the ways various artists illustrated their art.
“When you think of libraries and books you sort of have a skewed idea of what you would expect when you walk in here,” said David Funk, a graduate student at the opening ceremony of the exhibit.
Amid art enthusiasts at the opening event were the artists themselves.
“I’m very happy to be here,” said Enrique Chagoya, a painter, print maker and featured artist in the Illuminated Library exhibit. “This exhibit contains a lot of thought-provoking material, especially with books or works on paper in general, and when you are in universities, you need to be exposed to multiple ideas.”
As viewers made their way toward the center of the exhibit, they came across a dark area sectioned off from the rest of the artwork where a flat screen television displays a video piece of the artist, Kim Anno, immersing a history book of Nebraska into water. As the book is held in the water it disperses green clouds of ink. While these clouds cover the book little by little, the artist whispers short phrases from the book pertaining to the conquering nature of humans.
“It’s a very short piece, it’s only about three and a half minutes, and it’s mirrored so you just get lost in this meditation,” Bliss said. “The whispers almost affect you more than if she were speaking.”
Funk, who worked previously on the BookSmart exhibit comments on how similar the galleries’ messages are.
“What we’re doing is taking the theme of art and literature and exploring that through our regular collections and special collections that students, teachers, faculty, all have access to,” Funk said. “What is fascinating about this exhibit is that it really does take all aspects of the book and interprets it in different ways from collage to photographs to paintings or children’s books, that’s what I really found captivating about this show.”
Gallery admission is free and is open until Oct. 17.