Featured Exhibitor: Press | 29 Press
Press | 29 Press shares experimental letterpress work and book art from Melanie Mowinski. Some of Mowinski’s one-of-a-kind books can be found in libraries and museums such as the Library of Congress, Yale University, Tate Modern Museum of Art in London, and Smithsonian American Art & Portrait Gallery Library.
“I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was a little girl,” Mowinski said. “I've been steadily working at it really my whole life.”
Mowinski entered the world of book arts through journal keeping. This initial interest led to homemade journals and sketchbooks before her formal introduction to artists book.
“Discovering the expansiveness of artist books was revelatory. I wasn't totally sold on [letterpress],” Mowinski explained. “But then I was given a Vandercook Universal III--that became a defining moment and a shift in my work.”
After further exploring the realm of artist books, Mowinski went on to earn an MFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Currently, she works as a professor of art at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
“My students challenge and inspire me. They share ideas and ways of thinking that enhance and expand my own,” Mowinski said. “They often ask me to reconsider something without even realizing it. They push me to be a better version of myself.”
Mowinski’s classroom also encourages her artistic involvement with civic engagement and local communities. In 2017, she printed letterpress cards every week from Inauguration Day to the end of year, each print inspired by “liberty and justice for all.”
“The day after Trump was elected, I walked into my very diverse class of students and saw on their faces fear about what a Trump presidency would mean for them,” Mowinski explained. “I knew at that moment that I had to figure out how to use my voice as an artist to try to make a difference.”
With each work, Mowinski weaved language and text with the ideas of human rights and social justice while using varying styles and colors. On her website, Mowinski describes her work as a mix of rules and experimentation.
“When there are rules,” Mowinski said, “it forces you to be creative in other areas and to break those rules.”
While working on a piece, a tough choice came up. Mowinski needed to decided whether or not to drill holes into this work.
“I was scared I was going to ruin it,” Mowinski said. “[My husband] said, ‘Go where the fear takes you.’ So I drilled the hole in the work.”
Melanie Mowinski and her boundary-pushing works will be at the Northampton Community Arts Trust the first weekend of December for the Sixth Annual Northampton Book and Book Arts Fair.