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American Students Created Artists’ Books in the Museum 

NEWS | December 5, 2016

The artists book is distinctive artistic discipline, for the uninitiated a little bit elusive. Students from Principia College in the United States, like Anna-Zoë Herr, recently became acquainted with artists‘ books in Olomouc.

"I realize that I made my first author’s book as a child—it was a gift for mom. The concept of the artists‘ book I heard for the first time today," said Herr after a seminar with Vladimír Havlík, who is in her words „very inspired“.

A day earlier, these American students made their own artists’ books in the creative studio of the Museum of Art under the guidance of curator Gina Renotière and professional restorer Eva Strnadová. "They chose a form of diary since it is the most attractive in the first step," explained Renotière.

The group of students focused on drawing, mixed media art and creative writing, spending ten weeks in Prague, where they worked in a studio in the MeetFactory. From Prague they went on a three-day internship in Olomouc.

Prague and Olomouc as an influence

Their study abroad program, called the Prague Abroad, revolved around studio art and a creative writing practice, but also dealt with the role of culture and art at the social or political level. "All this in connection with the public and moral responsibility within these artistic disciplines and the meaning of art in society, to help students become aware that the arts can create a difference in life on many levels and are not not always just for pleasure or mere entertainment, "explained Professor Dinah Ryan, who is also an art critic, publishing,  for example, in Sculpture Magazine, where her review of the  Olomouc exhibition of Magdalena Jetelová appeared.

Ryan identified the Olomouc Museum of Art as one of the most astute and ably curated institutions of modern and contemporary art she has encountered in her own professional background as an art critic and independent curator. She first recognized the quality of the museum five years ago when she was introduced to its collection of artists books through curator Gina Renotière. Professor Ryan and her students have regularly visited the museum since then.  In addition to lectures and workshops, Renotière introduces the American students to the Olomouc Museum of Art‘s focus on Central European Art in both a historical and modern context, through its collections and through the Central European Art Database. 

This year, the American youth also viewed an exhibition of photographs by Jindřich Štreit and visited the Archdiocesan Museum. The exhibition The Rustle of Angel Wings, according Ryan, offered students the opportunity to consider how religion is reflected in  various artistic and historical contexts.

At the start of artistic career

The students came away with varied impressions, which ranged from thinking about careers as artists to the work itself.  Otis Heimer said, after the seminar with Vladimír Havlík, that he was thinking more deeply about the question of "branding" and establishing himself as an artist. Because Havlík is ambivalent about self-promotion, Heimer said, "For me personally, I think about the best way to show my work and whether to promote it through social media. Im not a successful artist yet and if I want to be succesful, Havlík made me think about how hard it is to say whether it is better to focus on the creative process and the end result of the work or to think more about the work‘s presentation, or some mixture of the two."  

Sky O’Brien had a more conceptual response, noting that "In listening to Havlík discuss his work and process, I was intrigued by his sensitive construction of irony, particularly in the relationship between the collected objects he uses in his art and the subject matter of the art itself. For example, Havlíks appropriation of seemingly mundane, ordinary objects--a matchbox, a pill container--coupled with a theme, such as music and sound, showed me that irony and humour are not limited by originality but can be expressed through reinvention, which then, in itself, becomes original."

The students are in the undergraduate program at Principia College. They come from different places in the United States, from Florida to Massachusetts, California, Colorado and Tennessee. The group also includes international students from Germany and Australia who are studying at Principia College.

More information about their overseas program HERE.

Photo: Zdeněk Sodoma

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