On Friday, the Alliance for the Arts held a reception for its Art of the Book juried competition and exhibition. The show opened in the main gallery February 1 and will be on view until February 23. After that, selected pieces from the exhibit will be on display at the Reading Festival that takes place March 16 at Harborside Event Center in downtown Fort Myers.
For the exhibit, the Alliance asked artists to create artwork out of books. It's something artists have been doing in increasing numbers as the publishing world turns digital and print books are becoming more and more anachronistic. According to Alliance Exhibitions Coordinator, Krista Johnson, everything from scrapbook-style assemblages to sculptures literally carved from the pages of old, hardbound books are considered altered book art.
Dale and Jeff Ocasio were awarded Best of Show for their sculpted book, The Yearling Altered Book. "I'm blown away," said Dale humbly of the award. "I saw a lot of terrific pieces and it's an honor just to be accepted into the show."
In fact, Dale almost left before the awards ceremony, but Alliance Director Lydia Black sent someone out to the parking lot to ask her to come back inside. "I still had no idea Jeff and I had taken first place," Dale admitted later. "I thought maybe we were going to receive an honorable mention.
The Ocasios, who have a gallery on Broadway in the downtown Fort Myers River District, make whimsical sculptures from old toys and other castaway items. Jeff sculpts them into 3D pieces, which Dale then completes and paints. It's the same formula they followed in conceiving and crafting The Yearling, which brings to life the fawn made popular in the 1938 Marjorie Rawlings coming-of-age tome about Jody Baxter and a deer named Flag.
Cesar Aguilera received second place honors for his mixed media work, The Acquisition of Knowledge. For the project, Aguilera carved a tree of knowledge and outline of a head with grinding clockwork gears in lieu of an organic brain from the pages of a Webster's dictionary. "No one uses dictionaries any more," Aguilera sagely remarked on Friday night. "If I need to look up a work, I simply use my smart phone."
Like Krista Johnson said, anachronistic print books are just so much media for assemblage and sculptural art. And with Mapquest, Garmin and smart phone GPS technology, so are maps. Which explains why Deborah Martin strung maps together with wax and thread to make her cascading wall hanging called Gulf Series II, which was given an honorable mention on Friday night.
Third place went to Diana Villadolid for Once Upon a Time.
Art of the Book is presented by the Alliance for the Arts in partnership with the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. For more information, please visit www.artinlee.org or call 239-939-2787.
The Alliance for the Arts proudly supports artists and arts organizations in our area as the state designated Local Arts Agency for Lee County. The Alliance for the Arts galleries and gift shop are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1:00 on Saturdays. The Alliance is located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard, just south of Colonial Boulevard. To become a member, please visit http://www.artinlee.org/JoinUs/membership.html or call 239-939-2787.