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BiographyBonnie O'Connell produces work in the media of book arts, letterpress and relief printmaking, collage and assemblage. She directs The Fine Arts Press and teaches courses in book arts (letterpress printing, typography, book design, bookbinding, and papermaking), alternative media and color theory. She has produced fine press limited editions of contemporary poetry for Abattoir Editions, the literary imprint of the Fine Arts Press. She also maintains The Penumbra Press, a private press established in Lisbon, Iowa, with a 40 year history in literary fine printing.
In recent years she has issued mixed media letterpress works on social and art issues, as well as sculptural books and assemblages. Her offset artist's book, The Anti-Warhol Museum: Proposals for the Socially Responsible Disposal of Warholia was co-published with Nexus Press, Atlanta in 1993. Her unique bindings and edition books are featured in over 50 artist's book or fine press collections and have appeared in numerous national and international exhibitions.
Her essays on the book arts have appeared in the journals Books at Iowa, and Abracadabra. She's produced letterpress prints for several recent portfolio exchanges including Sock & Kiss, an international print portfolio coordinated for the 2001 Print Symposium in Cortona, Italy, Pandora's Box from the Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, Mutinabbi Street Starts Here from the San Francisco Center for the Book, and The Vandercook Book, from The New York Center for the Book Arts in 2009. Commissions include a print contribution to Ice Walk, by Judith Guest, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts 2001 Winter Book Project. She's been awarded grants from The Nebraska Arts Council, and The National Endowment for the Arts.
A founding member of the College Book Art Association, she now serves on the executive board and as the Publications Committee Chair. She also teaches at The Penland School of Crafts, most recently a letterpress workshop "Perf / Cut / Score / Fold", in the summer of 2009.
Since 1971, I've made both edition and unique books for celebration and catharsis, and still marvel at the flexibility and adaptability of the versatile format. The craft design processes of typography, printing, and binding provide considerable pleasures in object making, honing hand skills, and intellectual discovery through research. Since teaching book arts full time, I've been equally drawn to the expressive sculptural potential of book forms. The visual book re-evaluates the accepted perimeters of subject, medium, format, content, and materials. Its fluid manifestations generate vital relationships between image / text, material / meaning, author / artist, and reader / viewer.
For me the book becomes a reservoir for planning, substance, and resolution, a journey through the paradox of containment and display.
Recent studio work combines the tactile, textural qualities of hand papermaking with the mechanics of binding to create both supportive structure and metaphorical meaning. In the ongoing search for evocative materials, I've tapped the natural world as well as flea markets for printed ephemera, postcards, talismanic objects, framing devices and containers. The seductive surfaces and eloquence of these seasoned materials, which carry a history and the residuum of other hands, often calls for the unpredictable marriage of assemblage and bookbinding.
Research and Creative Activity InterestsAll technical areas of the book arts, handmade paper and sculptural book forms, regional grasses as fiber for papermaking, the role of the needle in women’s work, the role of envy in the academic environment, women literary printers, surrealist women artist/writers
EducationBA, University of Wisconsin-Madison; MA, University of Iowa
Scheduled TeachingThe Hand Produced Book: An Introduction to Typography and Letterpress Printing, Letterpress Edition Printing, Book Structures: An Introduction to Bookbinding, Hand Papermaking, Pattern Papers, Studio Foundations / Alternative Media
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