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Album Amicorum: Gems of Friendship in a Frightened World
Over centuries, the magic of paper marbling crossed international boundaries collected in handcrafted books of friendship called Alba Amicorum, or Friendship Books. These albums, precursors to modern-day autograph books, are thought to have originated in Germany in the mid-16th century and were prized possessions among itinerant students traveling to various universities during the course of their academic careers. Professors and fellow students made written contributions to their pages. Many albums also contain illustrations. One of the hallmarks of the albums is the elaborately decorated handmade paper used for the pages. Today, beautiful examples of this lost tradition can be found in the collections of museums, libraries, and archives.
Now, in the spirit of international friendship communicated through the historical Album Amicorum, Tom Leech, the Director of the Press at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a paper marbler himself, has used a message delivered via email to organize an exhibition of marbled and hand-decorated paper by 21 contemporary paper artists from around the world.
On November 19, 2007, Tom sent out the following letter:
“Dear Friend in Marbling,
I have recently returned from a three-week trip to Turkey. During that time, international news was dominated by stories of tension between my country and Turkey, between Turkey and Iraq, and with the ongoing war there. I received worried emails from friends and family as to my safety and that of my fellow travelers. The Middle East, once a source of wonder and inspiration for many, has instead become a source of fear.
For my part, my experience could not have been more different. As on my previous visit to Turkey for the International Marblers Gathering in 1997, I found only warm welcomes and friendship in the homes and studios of the artists I visited. And I recalled the origins of my craft in lands now torn by strife, and how, over centuries, the magic of marbling crossed international boundaries collected in books of friendship called Alba Amicorum, or Friendship Books.
In this spirit, The Press at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, is initiating a very special and unusual exhibit of marbled papers entitled Album Amicorum: Gems of Friendship in a Frightened World. This letter is an email invitation to you to participate. I apologize from the outset that this letter is only in English (my only working language), and I hope that this will not present a barrier to your participation. Please feel free to translate this letter as necessary.
The purpose of the exhibit is to gather beautiful marbled papers from a variety of international artists as an answer to the fear that grips the world. While it is obvious that this will not change any country’s policies, we can demonstrate that friendship and the beauty of our craft can speak louder that fear.
What makes this exhibit so special and unusual is that the artists themselves are the curators. Artists are selected at the invitation of another artist who, in turn, invites another artist from another country, across an international border. We are asking for the participation of 20 artists, each artist submitting one piece each. And with the use of the Internet, this exhibit can come together very quickly.
The exhibit will open at the Business of Art Center (www.thebac.org), in Manitou Springs, Colorado, USA on January 18, 2008, and run through March 1. The work will also be featured in an online exhibit sponsored by the Press at the Palace of the Governors, New Mexico History Museum ( www.palaceofthegovernors.org ), and will be made available to museums and libraries in the state of New Mexico and elsewhere.
Click Here to view an online exhibit
of marbled and other decorated papers.