Mass Cultural Council and the New Art Center (NAC) will present Mass Cultural Council Awardees in Crafts and Sculpture/Installation/New Genres, September 18-October 17, 2015, at the NAC.
Johanna Finnegan-Topitzer, one of the exhibiting artists, shares her bookmaking process.
My artwork tells stories. They are stories about animals and the relationship between humans and animals. Sometimes the stories are printed in text on the work itself. Sometimes the story is told in a simple poem. And sometimes simple images tell the story without words.
I look to the ancient tales of our ancestors for inspiration and research how they related to the animal world. Most cultures have stories about how animals helped shape our world and these are the folktales that I want to celebrate. Modern day tales of human-animal relationships also influence my work. From the way we treat or mistreat to the companionship we share, I strive to express this connection.
My artistic training was in the traditional craft of hand Bookbinding at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, MA and my graduate study was in the field of Folklore at University College Cork in Ireland. I use the skills and knowledge from both of these intellectual pursuits in my work. I use a variety of media: wood, metal, paper, bookboard, watercolor, clay, wood, etc. There is much experimentation with how materials work together and the technical aspects of attaching them. When showing my work, I like to encourage viewer interaction. My pieces come from the tradition of the book and therefore, like a book, are intended to be opened and explored. I want the viewer to take the time to go deeper into the meaning of the work and understand the story behind it.
The main theme expressed in my work is respect for the natural world. People living close to nature understand the need for balance and have a certain reverence for their fellow earthly companions. In modern post-industrial societies, people have become out of touch with this connection. I hope my work can bring people back to this link with the greater living world.
See Johanna Finnegan-Topitzer’s work at the upcoming exhibition, Mass Cultural Council Awardees in Crafts, Sculpture, Installation & New Genres, September 18 – October 17, 2015. Opening Reception: September 18, 7-9 PM. New Art Center, 61 Washington Park, Newtonville, MA, 02460
All images courtesy of Johanna Finnegan-Topitzer. Photographs by Jeremy Heflin.