Ted Amsden, Northumberland Today
Colborne – Artist Judith Kreps Hawkins is a book lover although judging how she treats her books, you might not think that is the case when viewing some of her works displayed during the upcoming show – April 21 to May 27 – Bookworms and Other Creatures- at the Colborne Art Gallery in Colborne.
There is a book on display that points to Kreps Hawkins unusual relationship to the bound word. It has clearly had open heart surgery. The keys from an old manual typewriter have been transplanted into its centre. Kreps Hawkins explained that she left the hybrid book/machine out in her garden for a year or so before displaying it. But first she covered parts of it with concrete to see what would happen. And, there's a small garden ornament that looks like a little brass bird perched on top. The book, presented as weathered outdoor sculpture piece now showing indoors, stirs the emotional pot invoking a feeling of time past, of decay, of change, of nature, of re-purposing and, of course, of beauty. Needless to say, somewhere inside the book is the original message which adds another layer to the mystery of the piece.
I am sure there are no bookshelves gathering dust in her house. Her books are either under construction, acting as growing mediums or suffering the flames of her imagination. Other pieces in the show make the point that this lover of books loves mutilating them.
To understand this behaviour, Kreps Hawkins tells a story about growing up in England and hiding out in the family chicken coop. Seems the chickens didn't mind and she loved having her own space. So much so that, all of a dozen years old or so, Kreps Hawkins designated the coop her private library and reading room. There she read, dreamed and kept her books. Fast forward a bunch of years. Upon returning from university and visiting her little hideaway chicken coop, she discovers the rodents and chickens have had their way with her texts. Far from being aghast at the mutilation her texts had undergone, she thought the peckish ways of the egg layers and the nibbling habits of scurrying intruders beautiful.
From this insight, Hawkins Kreps has come to embrace metamorphosis. The transformation of objects by the unrelenting hands of Time and Nature. Of course, the playful hands of the artist have their time at the wheel of change when it comes to the pieces on display.
Also in the show are collage pieces – some more profound than others. One large panorama offers a glimpse into her relationship with her mother who died when Kreps Hawkins was young. And then there is the Volume Series, small canvases with some book pages and other found objects.
In a side room at the gallery, she has set up a process room where she is encouraging young and old to try their hand at mixing and matching with some of the many finds from her exploring adventures.
"In my work I use books to openly portray some part of human experience or emotion, transforming bound pages of abstract symbols into direct visual experience. I try to transform old books into new ones which require no decoding, which are readable to the viewer at very first glance."
The opening reception is April 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Colborne Art Gallery. For more information go to www.judithkrepshawkins.com.