Posted by: groundsforsculpture | July 29, 2010

Featured Student Artwork: Houdini’s Book of Magic

The Student Exhibition, Integrated Arts: Tapping into the Creative Spirit opens this Saturday on July 31 in the Education Gallery.  Grounds For Sculpture proudly presents its first student exhibition, featuring artwork created during our adult workshops held between August 2009 and July 2010.

Today’s featured artwork and blog is by student and artist Ilene Dube who took Aylin Green’s Altered Books course in the fall of 2009.

Featured Artwork: Houdini’s Book of Magic
By Guest Blogger, Ilene Dube.

Ilene Dube. Houdini's Book of Magic, 2009. (cover view) Mixed Media. Photo Courtesy the Artist.

Those of us of a certain age grew up in a world where books were sacred — you didn’t write in them, you didn’t dog ear pages and you certainly didn’t tear out pages. In Aylin Green’s class on the Altered Book, the first thing we had to do was to learn to overcome our fear of taking apart a book. “This is legal,” Aylin assured us as we glued pages together, cut out sections with Exacto knives, shared with each other certain precious passages, painted, glued, collaged, transferred images, and created very personal works of art.

Ilene Dube. Houdini's Book of Magic, 2009. Mixed Media. Photo courtesy of the Artist.

To be fair, the books Aylin brought in for us to alter were outdated books from flea markets that were no longer relevant in today’s world. Aylin has been doing this for a long time, and is not only an artist and an educator but has an extraordinary eye for collecting ephemera that can be used in collage and altered books. She brought in clothing patterns from the 1970s, children’s pamphlets from the Cotsen Library, firecracker paper, Chinese New Year red envelopes, ceramic disks and so much more.  Some of the other class participants had a definite idea about what they wanted their book to be about. Because I was so enthralled with the materials, I decided to let the materials dictate what the book would ultimately become. And that is how I wound up with “Houdini’s Book of Magic” — the title itself was found among the materials Aylin distributed. The whole process seemed magical, and I’ve always been a believer in the happy accident. I started with an old grammar book, which appealed to be because I am a writer and an editor. I used the firecracker paper for the binding, which makes it seem like some ancient Chinese tome. “Party Animals” was another found title, and since magicians often use animals in their tricks, it seemed to make sense to fill a book of magic with party animals. And then there are other secrets and surprises. Houdini was famous for his buried alive stunt, and it almost cost him his life, so this work contains a small black box with a skeleton inside.  Houdini spent much of his time debunking psychics and mystics and attended seances in disguise. Ironically, his widow held seances every Halloween for the 10 years after his death, but she never received a sign from him. Finally, she put out the candle she had kept burning beside a photograph of Houdini since his death,  saying  “10 years is long enough to wait for any man.” To this day, magicians throughout the world keep with tradition and hold a séance for Houdini.
Ilene Dube blogs at The Artful Blogger: She is president of the West Windsor Arts Council.


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