This post was originally published June 2013.

Today’s feature is the second in our two-part series focusing on the “Artists in the Archives” project (read the story about this project in the New York Times). Today we hear from JoAnne Wilcox and Barbara Page discuss their contributions to “Artists in the Archives”: “The Call to Everyone” and “Book Marks,” respectively.

Read Part 1 for an introduction to the “Artists in the Archives” project and to read our interview with Carla Rae Johnson. ~ Laura

From the invitation to exhibit, sent to public libraries: Artists in the Archives is an engaging, interactive installation which will attract attention, invite participation, and encourage dialog. The “Alternet,” “Book Marks,” and “Call to Everyone” are three distinct artworks that, together, or separately, provide opportunities for exploration, connection, and contemplation; each utilizes a card catalog file as a reminder of the physical spaces that activate these enriching pursuits.

The three projects present in the “Artists in the Archives” exhibition all relate to library ephemera, books, history, memory, organization of information, and discovery. Tell us about your projects (“Book Marks” by Barbara Page and “The Call to Everyone.”

Barbara Page: I began work on the Book Marks project about five years ago and did not know about the other card catalog projects until Carla Rae contacted me about a year ago.  We both had our work included in a show of artists books in New Jersey several years ago.

"Book Marks" file drawer. By Barbara Page. 2011.

“Book Marks” file drawer. By Barbara Page. 2011.

Array of cards from "Book Marks." By Barbara Page. 2011.

Array of cards from “Book Marks.” By Barbara Page. 2011.

JoAnne Wilcox: I spend a lot of time at my local library, Mitchell Library in New Haven, CT. I was asked to put together a photography show for their gallery for the month of April 2012. I typically am an editorial photographer, shy to actually doing a show, but not shy in ANY other way. I had been focused on the concept “carry it with you” in order to develop my eye. My cell phone was a tool that became part of me. I still noticed the frustration that digital photography brings, that leaving it in the box, nothing tactile, is not satisfying.

I began to work on alternative papers, first working small, filling a rolodex. Then I came across a small piece by Susan McCaslin, a photo printed to graf paper. The antiquated look appealed to me, and as we talked, I knew right off that the cell phone photos and the card catalog card were meant to be together. Still thinking about the project of the show I was to put together for the library, I was on my way out to lunch with the librarian and noticed the small set of card catalog drawers that I still use for the project. I knew right away that the drawers meant that I could invite anyone to participate, that I could continue to grow the show indefinitely, and that the drawers were meant to be wandered through. Along with the fact that it takes all the pressure off of me, to share the show with Everyone, I was excited to give people an alternative to leaving the photos in the box.

To create something new, the images paired with the words, stamps, and librarian notes…it’s so much fun, and they turn out so beautiful. Each card becomes a story all it’s own, sometimes only known by the participant.

Image of card from "The Call to Everyone" project, developed by JoAnne Wilcox.

Image of card from “The Call to Everyone” project, developed by JoAnne Wilcox.

When you were actually developing the projects, where did you work on the pieces? Were libraries – the physical space, not just the card catalog – a part of your creative process? How, if at all, do you think your relationship to / understanding of libraries changed or evolved based on your work on the projects that ultimately made up “Artists in the Archives”?

BP: I worked on Book Marks in my studio but got permission to remove obsolete library cards from books in our local library for use in  this project.  Not many remained as the librarians had been removing them when the books were checked out.  I was quite familiar with our library as I served on the board of trustees for six years.  Spending so much time with library affairs probably helped me come up with the idea for this project.

JW: For me, being in the library has built my community.  I believe that the project was a great way to get people in the door, and to link people who might not have otherwise met.  I held workshops in the libraries here where I would have folks in their teens, 20’s, 30’s and up to their 70’s, all looking to either participate in the project or just better understand this technology in their pocket.  I had a man in his 60’s run across my poster in the lobby and in seeing it, realized that he had been carrying guilt around for years, all of his photo equipment had been in storage.  In the same moment he realized he had been carrying around a $9.00 phone that had a camera on it all along.  This stranger became the biggest cheerleader for The Call to Everyone, he felt free to take photos again, and loved the limitations that his $9.00 camera brought him.  People come together in libraries, but they also know that if they pay attention, they might just learn something while they’re there too.

The finished pieces are shown in a public library. Can you talk a little bit about the process you went through to propose the project, how the exhibition evolved as you talked with library staff members, and ultimately, what the public’s response to the exhibition has been?

JW: My project has shown in a few places before joining with Carla Rae.  It was part of the Ives Memorial Library’s 125th anniversary last summer, Mitchell Library April 2012, and Open Studios in the fall and ArtWalk in the spring.  All New Haven events.  While it was well received, it’s exciting to see it leave New Haven, and thanks to Carla Rae, it feels as if it now has a life all it’s own.  I hope to see it continue to grow, so interested parties should visit the project’s website:

“Artists in the Archives” is on display at the Greenburgh Public Library until September 2013. 

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