Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lisa Kokin - More than Words

Lisa Kokin

It was just one of those great days....a sunny afternoon, after spending a beautiful day at China Camp near San Rafael... John and I couldn’t imagine things being much better.

Since neither of us had previously been to San Rafael, we decided to take a stroll through an interesting looking section of the city on our way out. As we made our way down the street perusing the cool little shops and galleries, we happened across the Donna Seager Gallery and decided to go inside. Then, the day suddenly did became better.

This was the first time we saw Lisa Kokin’s altered books.

Lisa presents viewers with altered books that have a prominent sculptural presence. In creating her works, she uses three-dimensional space to create an original milieu, placing equal importance both on what remains and what has been taken away.

Lisa reinvents books that engage the viewer in an inclusive experience of discovery that goes far beyond words on a page. The viewer must become involved not only with the text, but with the physical presence of the book and with the specific and unique art object that it has become.

Through her process of art making, Lisa is able to explore many facets of the human condition, broaching a wide array of cultural and personal issues with refined appeal. In doing so, she blends the very look and feel of books and photographs to create independent constructions that beg to be explored further.

“Books have played a major role in Lisa's work; she returns to them between bodies of work and as bodies of work in and of themselves. In her current series, she literally reshapes the content of selected old books by making papier mache balls, organ-like objects and cubes out of the shredded pages, then sews the contents back inside and outside of the original book covers. Bits and pieces of the original text remain, although the literal meaning is lost. The covers can no longer contain their unruly "text," and form defines content.

She explores memory and history by using the objects we leave behind.”

Lisa's work is not limited to altered books. She also creates transformative and compelling sculptures using the common trappings of sewing to make intricate pieces with almost bee-like detail and connection. Her work deftly overturns the traditional aesthetic hierarchy that privileges certain forms of art over others based on gender associations.

About her button sculpture, Lisa states:

“I have sewn since I was a child and the stitch plays a major role in my work, so it was natural to join the buttons together to form a reconstructed family portrait. … My work has always had an obsessive quality and this body of work is no exception. Every button is stitched to its neighbor to form a low-tech pixilated composition. Up close each piece is an abstract mélange of colors and shapes; the further back one stands the more decipherable the image becomes. This interplay between abstraction and representation intrigues me.”

In uniting sewing with sculpture and photography, Lisa evokes emotional responses that speak to the past and to familarity. Her work gently turns the viewer's thinking about the stitches into something unconventional and, at the same time, evokes comfort and a sense of knowing about lives that were lived by others. Lisa states:

“Much of my sculpture involves stitching objects which are normally not sewn such as toy ovens or ironing boards. For two generations my family made a living with needle and thread, my grandmother sewing ties, my parents dinette sets and boat cushions. They’ve covered the traditional territory; I am fascinated by the thought of sewing what is not normally sewn.”

Lisa received her BFA and MFA from the California College of the Arts. She teaches workshops in bookmaking with found materials in her studio in Oakland the last Saturday of the month. Topics include: found photos, mini-books, open book collage, reshaped books, altered books, and more. For more information on the upcoming May workshop. Anything But Paper, please go to
this web site.

To receive e-flyers about upcoming workshops, you may email Lisa at

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