The Kate Cheney Chappell '83 Center for Book Arts presents "Bookbinding and the Pursuit of the Human Touch: The Work of Gray Parrot," now through April 30 in the UNUM Great Reading Room on the 7th floor of the Glickman Family Library.
Gray Parrot began learning the ancient craft of bookbinding in 1971 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts under Master Bookbinder Arno Werner (1899–1995), who trained several generations of U.S. binders. While there, Mr. Parrot absorbed Mr. Werner’s work ethic and his appreciation and knowledge of time-honored materials and techniques, which to this day have directed the course of his career. After studying fine finishing techniques at the Legatoria Artistica in Ascona, Switzerland, he opened his own bindery in 1973. Except for an 8-year interlude in Massachusetts, Mr. Parrot has worked from his home in Hancock, Maine.
During the past 43 years, Mr. Parrot has been commissioned to create edition bindings for numerous private presses, including Leonard Baskin's Gehenna Press, Dard Hunter's Mountain House Press, Henry Morris' Bird & Bull press, and the Khelcom/New York press of Peter Bogardus. In addition, he has produced many fine bindings and housings for rare books, as well as modern rebindings. His work may be found worldwide in major libraries and museums, as well as in many private collections.
Exhibition Curator, Britta Konau, is a lecturer, critic and curator of contemporary art. She has contributed articles to regional and national art magazines, including Art New England, and is a contributor to Art in Maine: Contemporary Perspectives (Orono: University of Maine Press, forthcoming). She was curator at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. She has a particular interest in anything related to books.
Konau's curator statement outlines the components of Parrot's exhibition. She said, "the exhibition 'Bookbinding and the Pursuit of the Human Touch: The Work of Gray Parrot' comprises three distinct components that are interrelated and inform each other. Examples of Mr. Parrot's fine bookbinding are displayed together with materials and tools he uses. Books from his extensive personal collection make up the second component. The third consists of other kinds of objects he has assembled over the decades. What ties these components together, or indeed Mr. Parrot’s lifework, is his absolute dedication to the human touch. And this is not meant solely referring to the artist’s handicraft, but in a larger sense to what he calls 'didactic materialism'—collecting the things we have made and considering what they can teach us and future generations. We are thus allowed to gather an inkling of Mr. Parrot’s thinking and motivation while enjoying this gathering of objects."
Other related events include a lecture by Richard Ovenden, Bodley's Librarian at the University of Oxford, England on April 5. The head of the Bodleian Library, the main library at the University of Oxford, is known as Bodley's Librarian after its founder, Sir Thomas Bodley. An exhibition opening reception and conversation with Gray Parrot and curator Britta Konau will take place on April 27.
Please visit the Kate Cheney Chappell '83 Center for Book Arts website for more information on this exhibit and upcoming exhibitions, lectures and workshops.