• MARCY JAMES

    NO MAN'S LAND: THE LIBRARY

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    ARTIST STATEMENT

     

    Some people spend their lives writing books. They write them under candlelight. They write them under pseudonyms so that they can write freely. They write books even though they may be persecuted. They type them, or write them freehand while walking in the woods. On parchment, clay tablets, paper, even using their own blood as ink...for some they will write their research and their stories any way they can. One thing we know is that those who write books are fascinated by their subject matter and they want to share what they learn, believe and imagine with others.

     

    Books are also artfully constructed objects. Great care is given to restoring books—whether it's a family bible, a beloved children's book, or an historical document. We tend to these vessels of story and history and fact and fiction. We preserve them for the end of time.

     

    Books, in a way, are a metaphor for what we as a society consume and value, what we collect and what we preserve and care for. For centuries, libraries have held the world's collective and idiosyncratic knowledge. Bookstores have been a place to explore and arouse our curiosity. Books have been an instructional tool, an escape, an outward definition of a person, a culture, a country. In wars, libraries have been destroyed in order to destroy the history of a people. We gain insight into people as we peruse people’s personal libraries and bookshelves. But bookstores are disappearing to online sales and tablet reading. Libraries are shifting from housing books to becoming multi-use community centers. We are at a precipice. Meandering is falling out of favor as searching, with ever-quicker results, shapes our way of engaging with knowledge.

     

    For me, books contain a unique energy. They are exciting and inspirational. I am captivated by their construction and their content. I am fascinated by the storytellers, especially those who may not have become famous from their first editions or by having their work listed among "100 books of the century everyone must read." You are the audience. You have cared about a story, perhaps felt compelled to read the same book multiple times. These books. They are alive with narrative and perspective. They are relevant. I am documenting their significance and am hoping to evoke their unspoken mystery as well. These books are beautiful, shiny and new or bent and stained.

     

    This project is a celebration of the book. It celebrates the authors, the bookbinders, the readers, the collectors and the caregivers who have kept books accessible to us today. It is now cheaper to recycle books for pulp than it is to manage them. Hopefully this project inspires others to appreciate these wondrous objects and they continue to read in that old-school way.

     


     

    Regarding materials, when I prepare works for an exhibition, I think carefully and extensively about the presentation of my photographic images. I think of each finished work as a mixed-media object comprised of image, paper, frame, glazing, and other special touches.

     

    For all the images in No Man's Land: The Library, I printed on thick cotton rag paper because the texture and weight reminds me of the pages in a book. The color-study images—e.g. "The Disappearing Bookstore"—feel like abstract paintings to me; I gave them thick frames that would hold a painting. I chose white because I want the images to feel expansive rather than contained. The images of book spines—e.g. "The Thunder of Silence"—I treated like portraits, wanting them to look like something you’d find in an old family library. Resin mixed with a sprinkle of metallic pigment was poured over the images to give them more depth and mystery. The moulding for their frames was handcrafted in Italy and is no longer made. I like that, as objects, they can't be reproduced. The wood blocks used in pieces like "Something You Don't Know" were sourced from a local hardwood supplier, each one unique. The images were sized to accommodate the blocks and also coated with pigment-infused resin.

     

    ABOUT MARCY JAMES

     

    Marcy James grew up in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Early work experiences significantly influenced her view of the world and her approach to photography. When she was 20, during an internship for CBS News in London, Marcy was relocated to the Middle East to cover Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. This experience opened her eyes to the complexity of journalism, the unique cultures that journalists work within and some of the realities of war. When she was 25, Marcy moved to Los Angeles where she worked in the film and television industry for a few years. This experience expanded her love for fiction, storytelling and the elaborate process involved in creating. The most influential experience, however, was a self-imposed, nearly 10-year residency in Butte, Montana where she photographed what she believes is the backyard of American Society. It was in this place that she merged documentary practices and methods with fiction and storytelling.

     

    It is in her nature to work in an immersive manner where understanding the story of a subject from various perspectives while drawing upon history, social science, news, politics and, at times, the spiritual, drives her approach to create. Her photographs are layered with metaphor and association.

     

    Marcy’s work has been exhibited nationally, and is in numerous private and museum collections. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications including the catalog for Houston's biannual photography festival, Fotofest, as well as the Codex Foundation's exhibition catalog for the international exhibition "Extraction: Art of the Edge of The Abyss." Marcy owns Paper & Ink Printing Studio in Missoula, Montana and is an instructor for Rocky Mountain School of Photography.

     


     

    Thank you to O'Neill Byrd, whose passion for collecting books immersed me into the eclectic world of used bookstores. To Keren Wales and the Montana Valley Bookstore, which became a muse for me and is one of my favorite places to be. To Audra Loyal, owner of Vespiary Bookbinding, who invited me into her studio and introduced me to the tools that are intimate to bookbinding. To Xavier Kneedler-Shorten, who allowed me to photograph at the University of Montana's library whenever it was open; my love for wandering the stacks was so heightened there. To the Montana Arts Council, an agency of the State Government, who have supported this project via the ARPA grant. To Marlo at Art Haus Framing for your amazing framing artistry. To my Mom, whose love for reading any and all subjects with a sense of immersion is awe inspiring. And thanks to each of you for looking, inquiring and reflecting. I hope this exhibit has sparked a conversation in your minds.

     

    — Marcy James