Print reimagined: The VABC collaborative “Notions” goes beyond whimsy

The Virginia Arts of the Book Center’s Raucous Auction will feature this year’s collaborative project “Notions,” a sewing box full of ephemeral objects created by 20 member artists. Photo: Stacey Evans. The Virginia Arts of the Book Center’s Raucous Auction will feature this year’s collaborative project “Notions,” a sewing box full of ephemeral objects created by 20 member artists. Photo: Stacey Evans.

Though UVA has had more than its fair share of renowned professors over the years, the name Charles Smith may not ring any bells. Raised in Augusta County and trained at the Corcoran School of Art, Smith was an acclaimed printmaker known for intricately carved block prints as well as his innovative “block painting” technique that enabled him to print more playful and abstract works.

Smith became the first chair of the UVA McIntire Department of Art in 1947 and a short documentary was made about his process in 1960, providing insight into his particular genius and creativity. Restored in 2012, this film is currently on display at UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Preserved samples of Smith’s notebooks and a selection of his prints are also included in the exhibit, which is open to the public. The only problem is, you can take a look at these but you can’t take any of the prints home.

For that, you’ll want to head over to the Virginia Arts of the Book Center (VABC) for its annual Raucous Auction on Friday, November 14. Along with other hand-printed and limited-edition works, several Charles Smith prints will be available for bidding.

Now in its 10th year, the event is an abiding seasonal attraction. The VABC is a membership organization of deeply devoted members who use the space as a workshop, studio and gallery year-round. Plenty of artwork will be available for sale or bidding at the event, including prints, etchings, artists books and other work by Kristin Adolfson, Frank Riccio, Josef Beery and a variety of other talented VABC member artists.

Though the Raucous Auction is a fundraiser, it also serves as the release party for the organization’s annual group project. In years past, this project has ranged from a coupon book of indulgences or a series of postcards to a deck of cards and a variety of miniature books. The only hard and fast rule is that it’s imagined and created by collaborating VABC member artists. Teams create a limited run of their pieces of the project which are then assembled into the complete, limited-edition group project.

The 2014 group project, entitled “Notions,” is embodied as a sewing box full of ephemeral objects created by 20 artists in a limited edition of 40.

“The VABC is interested in stretching the boundaries of what a book can be,” said Kevin McFadden, Virginia Foundation of the Humanities’ chief operating officer. “The idea was that these notions were the elements of a story—that each object is a chapter or a scene. We like to think of that whole box as a book cover.”

Created from the collective imagination of VABC members, the sewing box represents four generations within one family, connected by the objects within as well as the tragic 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York and the 2012 Tazreen Factory fire in Bangladesh.

Curated by Bonnie Bernstein, the objects explore the interplay of book and fiber arts, featuring artifacts such as letterpressed needle books and yarn cards, embroidery samples and paper dolls. To accompany the collection, a small book designed by Josef Beery is also included in the “Notions” sewing box, adding background detail to the characters.

These projects provide a poignant undercurrent to the good cheer of the Raucous Auction. “The difficulty with these disasters is they are so hard to look at—we turn away from the horror,” said McFadden. “Both [“Notions” and the quilts] introduce us to the lives of those lost in the softer light of the everyday objects they left behind and their families have carried after them. We need to see that this reality connects to each of us; as consumers, our choices can determine if this will happen again. So it’s an evening for remembrance and reflection—we can get passionate, even to raucousness, about that.”

Friday 11/14. Free, 5:30pm. Virginia Art of the Book Center, 2125 Ivy Rd., Ste. 5. 924-3296.

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