Marie Dern: The Art of Handmade Books
Curated by Elia Haworth
October 17 – December 27, 2020
Unbound by traditional book forms, Marie Dern (1936-2020) created intriguing, witty, and beautifully crafted handmade books for forty-five years, both of her work and in collaboration with esteemed poets, writers, and visual artists. This retrospective featured a sampling of the diverse, imaginative, and often humorous books Dern produced through her Jungle Garden Press. Printed with hand-set type on her1898 Chandler & Price letterpress, the words and images are impressed into fine paper, creating a subtle three-dimensional appearance. Today, in the digital age, this technique of letterpress printing—originated by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century—is venerated for the artisanal beauty that it lends to art and the written word. Dern’s book design could take on any form as she interpreted the book’s subject. A book might be a traditional codex with hand-binding; or individual pages shaped like toast. There might be spare imagery or wildly humorous drawings. Still, always the paper is beautiful, the typeface carefully selected, the printing elegant, and her choice of design, binding, and format-specific, making each book a treasure.
After education from the University of California in Berkeley and the Sorbonne in Paris, Dern’s involvement with the Bay Area women’s movement and women writers inspired her to start Jungle Garden Press in 1974. Later, while raising her children, Dern earned a Master of Arts degree in Book Arts from Mills College in 1986. Marie and her husband, sculptor Carl Dern (1936-2009)–who created the museum’s entry gates and the bronze chair in the courtyard—raised their four children in Berkeley and Marin County, including living in Stinson Beach, and sharing a studio in Fairfax, where they often collaborated. Marie Dern, a storyteller and writer, was deeply involved with the Bay Area’s vibrant book arts community— including San Francisco Center for the Book, with people who shared her passion for every detail of bookmaking and creative invention. She and her friend Jane Downs, poet, writer, and editor at U.C. Press, founded Red Berry Editions publishing in 2007.
Dern’s creations have been widely exhibited and are held in the collections of such institutions as the Bancroft Library of University of California, Berkeley; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts of de Young and Legion of Honor museums in San Francisco; the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; the New York Public Library; Mills College Library in Oakland, California; and Bolinas Museum, where she served as a board member and she and Carl were enthusiastic volunteers.
Selected Works & Gallery Views - Click Images to Learn More
VIDEO: On the Life & Art of Marie Dern