Mary V. Marsh: Reading History: Reconstructed Books


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Mary V. Marsh
Reading History: Reconstructed Books

Laura van Duren
The Dress Form Dialogues: Meditations on Beauty

Mercury Twenty Gallery
25 Grand Ave. (at Broadway)
Oakland CA 94612

Exhibition dates: May 2 ヨ May 31 2008

Opening Reception: Friday May 2 from 6:00–9:00pm (in conjunction with First Friday/Oakland Art Murmur).

Mary V. Marsh and Laura van Duren open an exhibition of new work at Mercury 20 Gallery on May 2nd with a reception for the artists from 6:00– 9:00pm.

Mary V. Marsh collects and reassembles discarded library materials to examine reading consumerism and propaganda. Influenced by years of working in libraries the artist uses old cards and books which she layers with figurative drawings. These intimate portraits combined with the found words of the titles suggest intersections of the personal and the political. Dates and signatures of past readers on checkout cards add a history of the shared experience of each book’s consumption and make reference to the USA PATRIOT Act under which readers’ habits may be investigated without their knowledge.

Reading History refers to the artist’s re-reading of the past through old books as well as taking an historic view of reading. Marsh reinvents history by combining titles and book covers with drawings of people reading. Motivated by a love of books and nostalgia for the idea of books and reading she collects books no longer relevant or useful. Withdrawn from a library or neglected at a book sale the books have been transformed from a container of content to a visual object. The artist finds that reassembling the book parts gives them new life and a story about reading and history repeating itself–a recycled history–is revealed.

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Mary V. Marsh The Guide to Everything 2008 reconstructed book photo by Mary V. Marsh

Mary V. Marsh lives and works in Oakland CA. She has exhibited at the San Jose Museum of Art the Berkeley Art Center Bedford Gallery and the San Francisco Public Library Skylight Gallery among other Bay Area venues. She has an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her last show at Mercury 20 Gallery was Reading Not Reading Coffee and Theories with Arthur Huang.

Sculptor Laura van Duren‘s second exhibition for Mercury 20 Gallery is titled The Dress Form Dialogues: Meditations on Beauty. This new body of work continues to exhibit the artist’s interest in working with a combination of metal and ceramics punctuated with a pointed jab of activism. Van Duren has created ceramic and bronze dress forms in varying sizes. Life-size dress forms appear to be from an ancient era in a Cycladic style. Smaller pieces sprout bronze branches that hang heavy with budding fruit. Van Duren has also cast a number of frilly infant dresses in aluminum iron and bronze mounted on wedding fabric.

"My new work plays with the idea of an unobtainable perfection that many women long for. The series is inspired by the idea that beauty is not what our culture or the "beauty industry" is telling us it is" van Duren explains. On the contrary van Duren’s work pushes the viewer to explore their own perspectives on beauty and to question the constant deluge of media driven images. By focusing on the dress form van Duren challenges the viewer to think about what is left when the outer shell is removed; when we are stripped of our cultural ideals of the perfect female image.

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Laura van Duren Blue Sky 2007 ceramic photo by Scott McCue

Laura van Duren is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and has been exhibiting in the Bay Area and on the East Coast for the past 20 years. She was recently awarded "Best in Show" at All Fired Up the City of Santa Clara’s exhibit of Bay area artists’ work formed or produced by heat.

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