What is a Book? Think Again!

Oct 4, 2019

Donkey Mill Art Center in Hōlualoa, on the Kona side of Hawai‘i island, is showing new takes on a familiar subject: books. Digital media has freed the book arts to be just about anything humans want to see and touch.

Credit Minny Lee

Regenerate! Contemporary Book Arts in Hawai‘i continues through October 19, 2019 at the Donkey Mill Art Center in Holualoa, Hawai‘i island.  

Photographer, educator, designer Minny Lee says handmade books are a revelation for the senses.

"For me, touching the paper is so important, touching the page with fingertips is so important.”

Making your own books you can control the reader’s experience to an amazing extent. How big is the book? What shape? What does the paper feel like?

Credit Minny Lee

Lee and co-curator Thad Higa have selected individual artists, three zine collectives, and a unique publishing house for this overview of Hawai’i’s book arts scene.

It’s probably no surprise that some books in the Donkey Mill show have no words.

“More and more these days images are the communication tool,” says Lee, “For 3xamaple, Instagram, Facebook.” Even emojis say a lot.

Along with images, details like the font, whether it is serif or sans serif, affect our experience.

Credit Minny Lee

“More I work on it, the font really plays on the psychology of the viewer,” says Lee. “Also margins, is it dense? Or sparse? This all plays into one’s view of the book.”

Thirty-two artists are represented in the Regenerate! Contemporary Book Arts in Hawai’i show. All are Hawaii based, and come from varied disciplines: ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, and photography. Also in the show, a series of five chapbooks based on Lee’s UH Mānoa photography students’ work, collected under the moniker, flexion.  These seemingly simple collections, arranged by Lee, are remarkably pleasing to leaf through. 

Credit Minny Lee

Regenerate! also features zine collectives, Tropic Editions and Gritty Committees. Editions of Tinfish publications are also featured, and there are examples from a book making class at ‘Iolani School as well. Lee credits co-curator Higa, who is a writer, designer, and book artist in Honolulu, with the text design of the show.

What are the books about? They deal with identity, and with living in the Pacific. Some chronicle personal stories, like one by a woman whose book describes eight years caring for her husband with Alzheimers.

Regenerate! Contemporary Book Arts in Hawai‘i continues through October 19, 2019 at Donkey Mill Art Center in Hōlualoa.