Book sm(Art)

Rare Books impact new art at UD’s ArtStreet

By Susan Byrnes

Photo: Artist: Misty Thomas-Trout

Books have long served as a source of inspiration, as well as point of departure, for visual artists. Illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages included intricate designs and illustrations both to embellish the written word and also to convey information to the illiterate. Artists from the modern era, such as Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso, were prolific illustrators of literary texts throughout their careers. Renaissance artists were commissioned to create architecturally-scaled works based on Biblical narratives, among the most famous is Michelangelo’s fresco “The Creation of Adam” on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, based on the Book of Genesis. Beyond its content, the book as an object itself has also inspired artists. Technology developed to print and mass produce ancient to current volumes (from papyrus to Gutenberg to the E-book), as well as the shape, scale, weight and materials of its making, have taken the consideration of books into new territory.

This October, both art lovers and book collectors will find a rare and multifaceted treat at the University of Dayton. Through Sunday, Nov. 9, the first floor gallery in Roesch Library hosts Imprints and Impressions: Milestones in Human Progress, an impressive group of selected texts from the Rose Rare Book Collection. Books on display range from a 1st century BCE “Egyptian Book of the Dead” and a first edition of Charles Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species,” to “Illustrations of the Book of Job” by William Blake, and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” illustrated by Salvador Dali.

(Look for a full-length feature article on the Rose Rare Book Collection exhibit in the Oct. 7 issue of DCP.)

Running concurrently, but ending Thursday, Nov. 6, UD’s ArtStreet will feature an exhibition called Impact: Reaction to the Rose Rare Book Collection. This exhibition of visual art features new work by three UD alumni artists, Ellie Richards, Joseph Hoffman and Misty Thomas-Trout, who each created an installation specifically for ArtStreet’s White Box Gallery.

Of the vision behind the Impact exhibit, ArtStreet Director Brian LaDuca said, “It was a visual and aural reaction to written words of years gone by that still transcend and influence life today. That even old, tangible books can still shape the world we live in with unmatched perspectives from years gone by.” Adrienne Ausdenmoore, ArtStreet’s Associate Director for Arts Initiatives, helped select the artists for the exhibition based on her previous interaction with them as undergraduates and in the art department at UD. Over the years, she has followed their work since they left UD. She said, “They all had an aesthetic and approach to their work that would complement the book collection.”

Thomas-Trout, a graphic designer who is currently completing an M.F.A. at Ohio University in Athens, has created what she called “an artist book, sculpture and installation.” Her piece, “We Are All In This,” responds to material aspects of a book, using traditional bookmaking techniques such as papermaking and letterpress printing. Also inherent in the piece are literary concepts drawn from works in the Rose Rare Book Collection.

“I was greatly inspired by the dialogue and connections that happened upon reading Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ and Anne Frank’s, ‘Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,’ she said.

“I read Anne Frank’s diary when I was younger, but re-reading it 17 years later, as a mother of a young girl, brought about different feelings and connections to her words. The work also embodies the human desire to create or contribute something that outlives us, which suggests a desire to connect and to influence across time – past, present and future.”

Hoffman earned an M.F.A. at University of Maryland, College Park, and currently lives in Baltimore, Md. He described his work as an exploration of the physical nature of sound and its use as a sculptural object. For the ArtStreet exhibition, he created an audio piece in response to Ralph Ellison’s “The Invisible Man,” using sound gathered from a process that engaged others to read and discuss the book with him. Of his intention for the piece, Hoffman said, “I don’t want to merely have people narrate the book. I want to convey ideas illustrated by the book, and give a fresh perspective to those who are familiar, but also spark interest in it to those who aren’t familiar with it.”

Richards, after completing an M.F.A. at Arizona State University, is now the Wood Studio Coordinator at the Penland School of Crafts. She is a sculptor and furniture/functional object maker working primarily in wood. Her installation in Impact consists of a series of found and altered objects on constructed plinths, referencing Carl Linnaeas’ Systema Naturae and the network of animals, plants and minerals for which he created a system of classification. Richards was also influenced by a number of scientific and mathematical texts in the Rose Collection, motivated by the compilation of large amounts of information that result in a cohesive thesis.

“I wanted to recreate those moments in research that are often overwhelming and chaotic but show promise with quiet connections and larger narratives developing,” Richards said.

Impact: Reaction to the Rose Rare Book Collection, is on view through Thursday, Nov. 6, at UD’s ArtStreet, 330 Kiefaber St. For more information, please call 937.229.5101 or visit For more information about the Rose Rare Book exhibit at the University of Dayton, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Susan Byrnes at


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Susan Byrnes
Reach DCP freelance writer Susan Byrnes at

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