Paper, Bone, Vellum, Stone: Works by Susan Barron

On display through October 28. Book Arts Gallery, Neilson Library (3rd floor).

Page from Susan Barron’s Senza Ancora (1999), a unique illuminated manuscript with three collage/drawing/etchings. This is one of approximately 80 items on display.

 

As a student Susan Barron studied music, but she eventually graduated from the University of Illinois (Urbana) with a major in pre-medicine. Even so, she abandoned a possible career in medicine to do “something in music or art.” She traveled and photographed in Europe for four years before settling in New York City in 1974 with her husband, a classical musician and an actor. Read more about the artist...

Barron now makes collages, drawings, etchings, and other ink prints, as well as photographs. She transforms some of this material into books. In her art, Barron explores language and its relationship to music, to image, and to the natural world; words, pictures, and all sorts of materials are dissociated from their ordinary contexts and recombined. Read more about the exhibition...

Gallery Hours (approximate)

Monday – Friday, 8 am - 11 pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10 am - 11 pm

See detailed hours.

An Introduction to the Exhibition

If the most successful artist’s books are those that combine a variety of printing and craft techniques in order to present a multivalent amalgam of visual, verbal and plastic “text,” then Susan Barron’s bookworks are certainly worthy of our undivided attention and study. Here are talismans that inhabit a quasi-magical frontier between genres, where words, pictures, and all sorts of materials are dissociated from their ordinary contexts and recombined. In the startling and sometimes unsettling works on exhibition here Susan Barron explores language and its relationship to music, to image and to the natural world.

Since the publication of her first major project, Another Song, in 1981, Barron’s work has attracted wide critical attention. John Russell of the New York Times has observed that her photographs “seem rather to have been breathed onto the paper than printed … the varied ingredients seem, in fact, to have drifted together on their own accord, and what they say comes to us in a whisper. But it is a whisper worth bending down to listen to.” Others have remarked on her astonishing technical skills; Nicolas Barker of the National Trust writes that “the craftsmanship, both in artistic and book production terms, is of breathtaking virtuosity, but so absolute is the union between the two that one is never aware of the preponderance of any one element.”

Taken as a whole, Susan Barron’s oeuvre may be construed as an iconography of time, universal in scope and conception and entirely lacking in sentimentality. Moreover, the individual pieces on display – whether delicate and intimate or powerful and intense – serve to halt its passage, release its pressure, and rend its fabric, allowing tantalizing glimpses from various perspectives into what we might call time’s primordial harmonic.

About the Artist

Susan Barron was born in 1947 and grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois, near Chicago. Although she studied music seriously as a child, she graduated from the University of Illinois (Urbana) in pre-medicine. She abandoned plans to become a physician in favor of doing “something in music or art,” but completed advanced degrees in clinical diagnostic chemistry in order to make a living. She was serendipitously introduced to the visual arts by photographer Art Sinsabaugh. Barron spent four years living and photographing in Europe, during which time she also met photographer Paul Strand. She and her husband, a classical musician and actor, settled in New York City in 1974. She now makes collages, drawings, etchings, and other ink prints, as well as photographs. Some of her works eventually are transformed into books. Her work is in many private and public collections, and she also has exhibited her art worldwide.

Contact

For more information, contact the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Neilson Library
(413) 585-2906
bblument@smith.edu