Two Bidsquare-Exclusive Altered Book Auctions to Benefit the Marin MOCA

Liz Catalano
Published on

The Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)’s Altered Book Exhibit and Fundraiser is a fixture of the San Francisco Bay Area. Local artists regularly compete to turn written works into fine art, sculpture, and everything in between. Now in its 11th year, the 2020 event will be held exclusively online with Bidsquare. Proceeds from the auctions of these altered books benefit the Museum’s educational and cultural programs.

Over 100 lots are offered in the timed auction, held between July 30th and August 21st, 2020. This silent auction will close one lot every minute after 6:00 PM PDT on the 21st. On August 29th, 2020, at 10:00 PM EDT, the top 12 book creations will be auctioned via live stream. The Donald O. and Ronald R. Collins Fund of the Marin Community Foundation will match winning bids and donations up to USD 10,000.

Linda Mueller, Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer. Image from Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.
Linda Mueller, Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer. Image from Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.

The definition of altered books includes almost any possible change to the written word. Artists can paint over pages, sculpt the edges, remove text and place it elsewhere, or use a combination of techniques. Featured lots in the silent auction will cover the full range of these styles. Punkie Ebert’s The Voyager is a sculpture that resembles a traditional snow ship, complete with two masts and miniature netting ($50 – $500). Antique book bindings form the front and sides of the ship. Physiology of Marriage Repertory XVIII and The Counterfeiters are among the titles.

Linda Mueller’s Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer, also in the timed auction, takes the opposite approach. This piece is a reproduction of a painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The original was one of the last portraits from the artist’s key “Golden Phase” and depicted a wealthy Viennese society woman. Mueller’s interpretation is painted on canvas, wood, and the pages of art books about Klimt ($50 – $500).

Barbara Crow, Pandemic Primer. Image from Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.
Barbara Crow, Pandemic Primer. Image from Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.

Altered book art is not a new phenomenon. “Medieval Italian monks scraped clean the pages of old manuscripts and wrote new texts on the valuable parchment,” wrote Debra Riley Parr in a 2005 issue of Fiberarts. “William Burroughs’s method of writing involved a disruptive violence toward the printed work on the pages of books; he cut pages into pieces and rearranged them so that the text came together in new ways.”

Despite this long legacy, the medium can be used to explore contemporary issues in a relevant way. Barbara Crow cut out definitions from the 1961 edition of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary for her Pandemic Primer piece ($50 – $500). Pasted on a standard-issue surgical mask are definitions for “distance,” “crisis,” “unemployed,” “shortage,” and “essential.” Diane Green and Fifer Andersen took the exhibition as an opportunity to correct an old art history book that omitted the work of women, adding entries for Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt, and others ($50 – $500).

Esther Siegel, Ode to Orpheus. Image from Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.
Esther Siegel, Ode to Orpheus. Image from Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.

Book art is also uniquely positioned to reflect on the social nature of words and literature. Some of the available pieces reference other works, including Ann Dodge’s ragged figure from Les Misérables ($50 – $500) and Esther Siegel’s sculpted Ode to Orpheus ($250 – $650). Ani Prevost created a room service tray that carries a fork, napkin, and bowl full of small packages ($50 – $500). She was inspired by the Gideon Bibles that provide “food for thought” in hotel rooms.

Some artists will refrain from using sacred or religious texts in their book art, while others will intentionally explore the meaning of those volumes. Each work must navigate the balance between respecting books and pushing the envelope of what they can represent. As a result, the artistic genre has been described as “part bookbinding, part bibliovandalism, part mixed-media collage.”

Finnish-American artist Maarit Rajahalme commented on this relationship: “Folding books allow me to combine my fascination with art and upcycling, to reimagine the ways we interact with form and function of books.”

Lisa Rodondi, Kintsugi Stitches, First Place winner. Image from Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.
Lisa Rodondi, Kintsugi Stitches, First Place winner. Image from Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.

The silent auction will begin closing on Bidsquare at 6:00 PM PDT on August 21st. Find more information here. Live bidding for the top 12 altered books will take place at 10:00 PM EDT on August 29th, 2020. View the full listings here.