Exhibition featuring Maya artist books opening with Sept. 17 event

An exhibition of Maya contemporary works will be featured at Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum, opening Thursday, Sept. 17, with a coinciding series of community events planned.

Denise Drury Homewood, museum director, said the exhibition of artist books has geographical ties to San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, a sister city to Asheville. Artist books are works presented in a book-like format, often with a sculptural quality. Unlike traditional books, artist books are typically published in small editions or produced as one-of-a-kind objects.

MayaArtistBooks1-375“The exhibition features works from the Taller Lenateros, or Woodlanders Workshop, a community of Maya printmakers, papermakers and book artists in San Cristobal de Las Casas, in a bilingual presentation, including some in the Maya language, Tzotzil,” she said. The exhibition includes recent acquisitions to the Fine Art Museum’s permanent collection and from the collection of Paul Worley and Melissa Birkhofer.

This also is the first exhibition in the United States for Manuel Tzoc, a Guatemala-based Maya book artist and poet whose work challenges traditional relationships between readers, poets and texts.

Drury Homewood said what she finds exciting about artist books is that the creations are visual elements that invite touch, because books are held, and prove accessible to people outside of the usual context of galleries and museums. “These works can challenge common notions of art or update traditional forms, and with this Maya influence, are extraordinary,” she said.

The exhibition runs through Friday, Oct. 30.

The public is invited to a series of related discussions and hands-on activities:

  • Exhibition Opening – Thursday, Sept. 17, from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Fine Art Museum, with assistant professor of Spanish Tiffany Dawn Creegan Miller of Clemson University. Reception to follow.
  • Contemporary Relevance – Thursday, Oct. 29, from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Fine Art Museum, with history professor Leon Fink of the University of Chicago discussing his book “The Maya of Morganton, Work and Community in the Nuevo New South.” Reception to follow.
  • Halloween “Day of the Dead” Special – Friday, Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., a School of Art and Design Open House for family-friendly art activities, including making sugar skulls and sun calendars celebrating “Dia de los Muertos,” the Day of the Dead.
Example of works from the “Tomb to Taller: Maya Collection” exhibition at Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum.

Example of works from the “Tomb to Taller: Maya Collection” exhibition at Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum.

The Fine Art Museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with extended hours on Thursdays to 7 p.m. Admission and parking are free. The museum is located in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

To learn more about the Maya artist book exhibition or other upcoming events, go to fineartmuseum.wcu.edu or call 828-227-3591.