In sculptor Jacqueline Rush Lee’s statement about process, Lee cuts to the chase and writes, “As an artist I work decisively and intuitively between the borders of craft and fine art to create sculptures informed by personal and art historical ideas.” Her vision and process are transforming books into an otherworldly art form.
A voracious reader as a child in Ireland, Lee’s biblio loves included old bibles because of their covers, but also their different sizes and varying weights, especially the ones with delicate onion-skinned pages and equally delicate fonts. Early recollections include writing short stories and poetry with illustrations, but also making her own book—the first one a scroll made from wide tape her father used in his workshop. “Aside from reading, I really had a thing for books because I could pour my imagination into them and they were sort of these intimate vessels that contained parts of me in a story and illustration. Just like an artist’s sketchbook, actually, and my book sculptures.”
Turning second-hand books into sculptures started with Lee’s notion that transforming a book into a “ghost-like imprint of itself” would suggest an alteration of time. She started to experiment by firing books in a kiln after she became interested of how other materials rather than ceramics would fire. The result was Ex-Libris where the books were transformed into fragile, but stable art forms that evoked coral or skeletal remains. “Hundreds of books were fired to explore this process after the first book that I fired had such a poetic and otherworldly presence. Once fired the books were no longer recognizable in their usual context, but were transformed into poetic remnants of their former selves, suggesting a trajectory of time, transformation and memory.”
To reach this almost ossified form, Lee had to experiment with hundreds of books and find the right the temperature so as not to incinerate them. The process was painstaking, but led to discovering that not all books are created equal, and that each one required adjusting the kiln’s temperature; older books with better-grade paper withstood higher heats much better than contemporary ones. In her second series, Volumes, Lee experimented further with her process; she started to wet the books to see the difference in firing. The outcome of bleeding inks of the books’ edges, the warped and curled pages made her fall in love with their visual textures. “In Volumes, I continued to use water transform the books so that dyes, of the book fore-edges, would bleed and the pages warped into beautiful curled striations…the continuous layers and matched edge-to-edge create geometric structures the alluded to natural, organic forms.”
Lee creates the sculptures primarily for herself, and comments, “It’s a document of how I experience, understand or am confounded by my world.” That vision comes through in her altered-state books and their layered metaphors of knowledge, memories, wisdom and daily experience.
For more information about Jacqueline Lee Rush, please visit www.jacquelinerushlee.com