The Big Read Blog (Archive)

The Cigar Art Box Project

Deborah Madigan and I first began chatting over email about a year ago, when I interviewed her on her participation in a gallery exhibit based on Sun, Stone, and Shadows. We've kept in touch since then and a few weeks ago, she emailed me about an exciting new project she was working on, The Cigar Art Box Project, which had also been featured in the Library as Incubator Project's blog. (Funny small-world side note, we've also featured the Library as Incubator folks on our blog!) The Cigar Art Box Project, Deb explained, is a collaboration by artists who have created work in cigar boxes (using the work of Joseph Cornell as inspiration) on a variety of themes centered around libraries, books, and reading.

Deb was kind enough to chat with us again, and invited some of her colleagues from the exhibition to come and share their works for the Cigar Art Box Project.

You Are What You Read (exterior) by Maureen Fritchen, photo courtesy of Deborah Madigan

MAUREEN FRITCHEN: My cigar box project titled, You Are What You Read [It's as Plain as the Nose on Your Face] is really quite literal, no guessing what I meant here. It's a statement on reading to learn as a life-long adventure and how apparent it is when one is well read, or not. I sprinkled in a bit of humor because isn't the process great fun!

The box is of an androgynous person. The hair is made from thin strips of writings cut from magazines and books on a great many number of subjects. The eyes, with the refection of the world, look outward. The mouth is wide open with words and phrases that show abstract and analytical thinking/speaking. And the nose! Yes, that huge nose that reminds us how apparent it is when one is well read. Knowledge shapes who we are and what and how we think. Knowledge helps us think outside the box and therein lies the bed of creativity.

The Book of Lost Things by Robin Kinney, photo courtesy of Deborah Madigan

ROBIN KINNEY: I love libraries and books, and despite the occasional death knoll for libraries, believe printed books will always be with us. I love box art, especially Joseph Cornell, and approach box art as a variation on the book---front cover, inside content, and an interactive demand to the viewer.

The Book of Lost Things is a fantasy tale by author John Connolly. Young David, devastated by the death of his mother, hears the books on her shelves murmuring to him. When he thinks he hears her calling to him from the garden, he follows her voice and falls through a hole in the garden wall into a fairy-tale land of wolves, heroes, wicked women, and a menacing crooked man. (This box represents David's room, where the outside is encroaching on the interior.)

  The Time Machine by David Holmes, photo courtesy of Deborah Madigan

DAVID HOLMES: Being a great collector of the debris of society for my base materials for my creations, I started by going through my collection of this and that. I almost immediately started finding gears and clock parts. H.G. Wells' Time Machine was the logical choice as the focus of the work. The inside of the lid is the opening line from the book. Since I was a child, the library was a place filled with creative energy and easily inspired the imagination. Here [is where] I found H. G. Wells and his Time Machine. This creation is dedicated to the author, his book, and the incredible place that gave it life.

The Liquid Library by Deborah Madigan , photo courtesy of the artist

DEBORAH MADIGAN: The Liquid Library is a vision of what books and reading could become in a future world. What if the reader could ingest the liquid in a vial, and all the senses (taste, smell, touch, hearing, sight) were engaged instead of the physical act of reading? The Liquid Library would be the ultimate reading experience. In case of an emergency, consult a librarian.

My cigar box is filled with liquid vials of watery titles: Moby Dick, The Tempest, The Shipping News, The Pearl, etc., all novels set within the geography of water; oceans, inland seas, lakes, but with very human themes.

Our world is now so very changed by technology and the internet, changing so quickly, and this has affected libraries and how they relate to library users. It is not so difficult to imagine that maybe we could just ingest a book and experience it in every sense of the word. Why not? Regardless, I believe that readers will always want to read, whatever the format.

What was so exciting [about orchestrating this project] was that the artists understood and embraced the concept and theme, and created serious and powerful works of art about how libraries, authors, and books had inspired their lives. I am grateful to all the artists who bought into the idea and created such thought provoking art works in boxes.

It took over a year for it all to come together into an actual exhibit. Because this project is so unique, it became clear that this was an exhibit that should travel, that would touch both the art community and the library world, and that the show could travel between both worlds. Now it is my job to find further venues, and to continue to promote the project. Several other artists have contacted me - wanting to participate. The project could grow.

The Cigar Art Box Project's next showing is planned for the Kenosha Public Museum from October 26, 2013 to January 27, 2014.

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