Section: Arts

Pictures worth a thousand words: “The Book as a Lens” comes to Kenyon

Pictures worth a thousand words: “The Book as a Lens” comes to Kenyon

By Rebecca Frank

Today, during Common Hour, the arts of photography and writing will merge together. Ken Botnick, an accomplished typographer, printmaker, designer and photographer, will be giving a talk about his work, which involves both the book and the lens.

Botnick is a well-respected book designer who has been publishing art books for about 25 years and is currently a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, according to Visiting Professor of Art Ellen Sheffield. Sheffield asked Botnick to come to Kenyon after she had his daughter, Molly Botnick ’13, in class two years ago.

Throughout his career, Botnick has had the opportunity to collaborate with many writers and poets, creating both books and “broadsides,” which are similar to posters. This February, he is going to be a featured book artist along with four others at the Codex Symposium, an international artist book symposium in Berkeley, Calif., where he will talk about his latest project. In addition to giving a talk, Botnick will meet with senior art majors as well as with Sheffield’s class, Book Arts.

“I want [students] to really see work by a very accomplished artist who combines design, craftsmanship, strong concepts, kind of all the elements that you need to make an artist book,” Sheffield said.

The talk is not just intended for art majors, however.  

“Ken is the huge advocate, obviously, for the book,” Sheffield said. “Anybody that cares about the book as an object will be very interested in his talk.”

Botnick’s life in the world of book arts began in the late 1970s, when he learned printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since then, he has worked at printing companies such as the Yale University Press and the Princeton Architectural Press. Botnick became the Executive Director at the Pentland School of Crafts, one of the oldest craft programs in the nation, in 1993.

In 1997, Botnick took a new position as an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, where he still works today. Botnick’s arrival at Washington University coincided with the creation of the university’s Kratzburg Book Studio, of which Botnick became the first director.

Now, Botnick produces work under his imprint, “emdash design.” His work has taken him all over the world, but he often returns to India, a country that has been featured prominently in many of his books. Botnick has work in collections such as the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art and the Princeton University Rare Books Collection.

Botnick will be presenting “The Book as a Lens: Seeing the World through the Aperture of the Book” today at 11:10 a.m. in the Horvitz Seminar Room.     

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