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Jul 25, 2014

Visual Art Review: Speaking volumes: A look at book art
By Victoria Crain (Arts Correspondent)
Carolyn Shattuck prepared a visual feast for me when she invited me to her studio. Color, shapes, patterns, who
A public artist’s reception will be held Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
The array Shattuck showed me represented a retrospective of 10 years’ work starting with an arrangement called “He Stole My View,” a miniature stage set depicting her home by the sea, a lofty patio, and her neighbor’s enormous trees, planted specifically to obscure her view of his property and, apparently, his ocean.
If you haven’t looked at book art, Shattuck’s work will give you a good start. If you are a book lover, you will reach for them. If you admire art with the mark of the artist’s hand, Shattuck’s books will please you.
These pieces are three-dimensional ways of looking at ideas. More than sculpture, not books in the usual sense, Shattuck’s creations create visual narrative.
Some have words, but not all. Some are books whose pages turn. Others, though, unfold, expanding with variety and drama.
“Happiness III” opens into a carousel of images and words. The words reflect responses Shattuck’s family gave her when she polled them about happiness. The pages are covered in a subtle palette with vivid cutout paper explosions between them.
The companion book, “Necessary Losses,” features words and phrases about losses necessary for growth. These are elegant and moving books.
A flexagon is fascinating to consider, because it is a paper sculpture that you can turn inside out. Some flips of the book present a complete drawing. Another flip reveals parts of two complimentary designs. Playful, they invite exploration.
“The Urn Book” is a solemn reminder that we will die. Vividly white, incorporating Shattuck’s drawings that hark to primitive American tombstone art, the book sets up like a three-dimensional floor plan. Quiet and intense, “The Urn Book” reaches for the viewer, saying, “Consider me.”
“Triple Decker” presents an apartment building, with people and laundry hanging and color everywhere. You can imagine the noise here in this place.
And then there are the tunnel books. They are like looking into a many-roomed shadow box, each room’s design leading the eye to the subject at the deep end.
Shattuck’s book art is ingenious, meticulous and thoughtful. It is sometimes funny, sometimes filled with mourning. Of her inventive process, she says that her ideas ruminate in the backroom of her brain, organize themselves, and come to her complete: shape, color, materials and words simultaneously. Then she goes to work.
Collected by many, Shattuck’s books have places in the following collections: the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Mark Waskow’s The Waskomiun Collection in Burlington; IBM in Essex Junction; Penn State Freyberger Collection; Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, Texas; and the University of Vermont Special Book Collections in Burlington.
If you come to the Castleton Downtown Gallery, you can read the books — but more likely, they’ll speak right up on their own.
Castleton Downtown presents the book art of Carolyn Shattuck, through Aug. 16, in Center Street Alley (between Paramount Theatre and Sunapee Bank) in Rutland. Hours: 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; for information, call William Ramage, 468-1266, or email An artist’s reception will be held Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.


Nov 11, 2011
Remarkable works of art, from a tradition that dates back four generations, are made by women who live in a rural African, American Alabama community. The goal was to improvise with established designs to create a unique composition. Materials such as old clothes, cornmeal sacks, denim jeans and fabrics that fit the color palette were used. This book honors the unnamed women who  made these unusual and stunning quilts. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, vol. 2 is a flexagon, H- 3.5″ x W-8.5″ x D-8.5″. inkjet  printed on Epson paper.  Edition 25.

Purchased by: Brooklyn Museum Library – Brooklyn, NY


Sometimes it’s good to acknowledge that our small city, Rutland, has an embarrassment of riches.  For instance, take City Hall.  It is alight with a new exhibit of paintings by Rutland artist Carolyn Shattuck.

The Castleton University Gallery Program refreshes the exhibits in Rutland’s City Hall every few months, and people who work there say that they are getting used to the art, like it a lot, and miss it when they are “in between” exhibits.  The current exhibit will be up for a few months.

Our City Hall is a grand building, but it can seem dark at times.  Not now!  Shattuck’s paintings splash color and heat on the walls and up the big, old staircase.

The exhibit is comprised of large bright still life paintings made with oil and Dorland wax on canvas.  Shattuck says that for these paintings, she found objects at flea markets in Mexico and arranged them with printed fabric, creating odd groups of random colorful things:  curvy glass pitchers, bright tablecloths, glassware with cut surfaces, little sculptures of lizards and dogs.

The objects, though fetching, are less interesting than the way the artist presents them.  Many are glass, so the bright fabric beneath them penetrates the wavy or carved surfaces of the glassware, emerging distorted.    The wrong side of the fabric reveals the prints in muted colors.  Everything tilts in ways our eyes don’t quite believe.  And for me, the strange little dog statue is riveting.  I’m not even sure he is a dog.  Do they have big-eared animals like this in Mexico?  Small, surreal dogs?

Shattuck created a bright, somewhat foreign environment in these paintings.  They feel southern:  full of sun and warmth and a tipsy perspective: a striking contrast to the well-mannered hallways of our historic, shady and resonant City Hall.

A second series hangs in the small first floor corridor leading to the parking lot.  Shattuck made these works by carving patterns into aluminum sheets and using them to print color onto paper.  Then she layered more printed images atop the first.  And, she cut up other works and added them, making more layers.  Shattuck says she likes to repurpose her work, lifting an image from one print and placing it atop a new work.  The pieces in this series are light-spirited and refer to the sea.  Again, Shattuck gives her viewers a breath of outdoors.  Looking at them, you can just about smell the salt air.

Go to City Hall and look at art.  Or go to City Hall to do something businesslike and notice the art.   It’s a gift.