Holding a book often sparks feelings of whimsy and inspires nostalgia. Not only does a book’s contents hold stories, but its binding, cover and scent also can stir up specific emotions. Artist Teresa Pankratz captures all of this and breathes it into her work through artistic and perhaps unconventional means.
Pankratz is the 2019 Eric Yake Kenagy Visiting Artist. Her exhibit opened at Goshen College on Feb. 17. She presented a public lecture on Sunday, March 10 as well as a public reading on Tuesday, March 12.
Pankratz is a book and paper artist who lives in Chicago. Her artistic books have appeared as part of special collection libraries throughout the United States. She is a publisher of handmade, original limited edition artists’ books and is represented by Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, LLC.
Pankratz says her work is “interdisciplinary” in both form and content. Printmaking, sculpture, bookbinding, writing and performance are just some of the ways she shares her personal stories. Her work varies in tone and focus, ranging from childhood anecdotes to observations about her recent years which focus on such topics as desire, loss and transformation.
Her exhibit on display in the Music Center’s Hershberger Art Gallery, which will run through March 24, features artwork she created throughout her life, chronicling various stages of her life. These works challenge what it means to be an artist as well as what qualifies as a “book.”
One series of pieces displays precious objects from Pankratz’s childhood home which survived when the house burned down several years ago. The objects are arranged on a floor-rug sized blueprint of the house and are transformed into books by the printed writings paired with the objects.
One piece from this series titled, “Anthony combs the ashes in search of his memory: Fourteen jars” is a row of glass jars which were salvaged from the ashes of the house. These tiny bottles now have a few phrases written on tiny spirals of paper tucked inside each one.
Pankratz emphasizes the importance of space in this work. She says that the distance between each jar tells as much of a story as the jars themselves.
Pankratz hosted a bookmaking workshop at Goshen College on March 13. Rachel Yoder, a senior art student, attended the workshop and was impacted by her meticulous and detail oriented way of working.
“It was inspiring to catch a glimpse of how another artist works,” said Yoder. The workshop revealed a new way of looking at art, as well as Pankratz’s own method.
One of her book artworks “The View From a House in Kansas: Acts one to Five,” was originally shown in a five part handmade artist’s book and has since been printed in small book form. The original book art was hand-cut and assembled and printed on Hahnemülle bamboo, handmade abaca and sakamoto papers.
In the book, Pankratz tells the coming of age story of a woman growing up in the Midwest during the 20th century. It details the dreams and recollections that vitally impacted this young woman as she grew. It’s an atypical story, and likewise, the work does not function like a typical book.
Its pages open in all directions and some stand on their own, disconnected from the other papers. Each act of the book happens in a different room of the young woman’s house and features printed illustrations of paper dolls and of the rooms, as well as snippets of her story.
When talking about the “The View From a House in Kansas,” Pankratz said, “I believe that stories connect us – placing us in the “heart” of the other…Whether we are male or female, white, black or brown, six or sixty, we need access to every tale of realization and transformation that enables us to see beyond our limited vision”.”
Teresa Pankratz’s work shows us that art is what you define it to be. Looking at some of her work you will see a number of oddities, a chair with angel wings attached, a row of charred bottles or a bundle of papers tied together placed in a box, and it might feel strange to call these things books, but to Pankratz each of these delicate objects and prints are stories worth the title of “book.”