Johanne Renbeck


Artist Statement for THE DECORATED BOOK exhibit at the Athenaem of Philadelphia

I love Egyptian art, myth and hieroglyphics for their close connection to the natural world.  This connection is the focus of the artist book I made for this exhibit.

The cover of the 1921 Scribner edition of A History of Egypt features lotus flowers and a winged scarab, both associated with the rising sun in Egyptian myth.  The lotus opening its petals was seen as the cradle of the sun at the beginning of time.  The humble scarab pushing its dung ball represented the god of the rising sun, pushing the solar disk up into the sky.

The shape of my book echoes the wide collar pieces painted on mummy cases.  The paper used is made from flax and dyed with indigo, materials known to the Egyptians.  For the cover design, I used motifs from the Scribner edition composed with less formality to emphasize their origins in the natural world.  Inside, the first page features the lotus.  The second page quotes an ancient Egyptian text praising the rising sun.  The last page features the scarab.  Pertinent Egyptian hieroglyphics drawn on papyrus are integrated with the text.  The circular space at the center of the opened book evokes the sun.

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The Athenaeum of Philadelphia invited book artists to produce works in response to the Athenaeum’s collections of decorated book covers.

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