Tom Linfield is a Madison artist who has worked in a variety of mediums and with a variety of subjects, from sketching stone circles, to painting locally grown peppers, to creating mosaic boxes. Recently, a project called Cover to Cover challenged Linfield to use books as inspiration and as raw material.
The Cover to Cover project first debuted at the 2010 Wisconsin Book Festival, and is currently on tour to public libraries in the Madison area. It is a collaboration of a group of artists called ArtsTRIBE, local artists who choose a theme for a project, work together and individually on art projects, and then bring that art to the public. For the Cover to Cover exhibit, each artist in the group had to create a handmade book along with other art inspired by or made out of books. One of Linfield’s pieces featured jars of ashes from banned books that he burned himself. When asked about destroying books for art, Linfield says it feels weird, but that he “only burns the books I love.” In another piece, Linfield and fellow artist Dana Slowiak created long scrolls from an old dictionary. After the exhibit’s time at the Overture Center for the Arts during the Wisconsin Book Festival, the project was a natural fit for libraries.
Linfield has partnered with libraries to show his work before, and appreciates the opportunity to show his work to the public in library spaces. However, he sees areas for improvement when it comes to libraries as gallery space. Because libraries are not necessarily designed to show artwork, it can be difficult to display work in a way that makes it accessible to patrons. Linfield’s ideal library would have a cohesive space that allows exhibiting artists to tell a story through an exhibit. Linfield says libraries can better facilitate art by installing hook systems in areas where artwork cannot be hung on the walls, creating more wall space that is at eye level rather than above shelves, and investing in items such as display pillars or glass display cases. Linfield has other ideas for libraries aiming to serve artists as well:
- Promote books that teach practical skills for artists, such as framing, making websites, and business. Many libraries may already have these materials, but they are rarely featured in a way that targets artists.
- Connect content and mission to disseminate information in relation to art on the walls – for example, for his display of stone circle drawings, Madison’s Alicia Ashman Branch let him request books to go with the show and do a public talk about the art. In this way, librarians can promote their materials and inform the public, while fostering appreciation of art on display.
- Stock and promote catalogs from Chazen Museum of Art and MMOCA. Many artists cannot afford these resources, but would love to look at them.
- Create an art calendar for area libraries, so patrons can easily see when/where art is showing at libraries.
ArtsTRIBE’s Cover to Cover exhibit will be on display at Madison Public Library’s Pinney branch in October and November, and at the Verona Public Library from December through January. To hear from another Cover to Cover artist, visit our feature on Jayne Reid Jackson.
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