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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 23, 2007

Photos (from top): Minsky bound "The Crisis of Democracy" in 1980 using sheepskin, gold and barbed wire. Minsky bound "The Geography of Hunger" in 1988 using acrylic and endpapers of food and dog food labels. Courtesty of

'Book Sculptor' To Visit UI

In Richard Minsky's eyes, books are good for more than just reading.

As a book artist, Minsky uses books to create sculptures. Often, his art makes a statement on a social or political issue related to the book's content.

The University of Iowa Center for the Book is bringing Minsky to campus for its 2007 Mitchell Lecture in the Art of the Book. Minsky will present "Material as Metaphor" at 5 p.m. Friday, March 2 at 116 Art Building West. Minsky's talk is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

Minsky's web site,, features several examples of his artwork as commentary. He created a barbed wire stand for a book called "The Crisis of Democracy." In the book, Minsky says, "authors propose that there is too much freedom in contemporary democracies, and that it is necessary to curtail personal freedoms in order to preserve the governability of democracies."

For another sculpture, Minsky transformed the cover of a book called "The Geography of Hunger" into a map of the world. The edges of the book resemble a mouth, complete with teeth and gums. Minsky said he used labels from Mighty Dog Gourmet Dog Food in the sculpture because in this country, there are "dogs who eat better than many people in the world."

Other unique materials used in Minsky's book art include table legs, Astroturf, gas masks, leather gloves and a screen with a hidden camera. For three decades, his innovative use of materials and pioneering techniques have contributed to the expanding field of book arts. A traditionally trained bookbinder, Minsky's work has long challenged traditional bookbinding aesthetics, moving the book from an expression of craft to art, and influencing a generation of book artists to use the materials and structure as metaphors for the work.

In 1974, Minsky founded the Center for Book Arts in New York City. The center has become a model for similar centers in cities across the nation. He lectures widely and conducts workshops in the United States and abroad.

"Minsky seems to have both the edge and the capacity to pursue almost any endeavor," said UI Libraries Conservator Gary Frost, who got to know Minsky in the 1970s. "When I first knew him, he was a violinist and a tango instructor."

Minsky will give an informal talk Friday, March 2 during the Center for the Book's Book Studies Workshop, and a hands-on workshop Saturday, March 3. To attend, contact Julie Leonard at Visit for more information on Minsky or the events.

The Center for the Book is an innovative, interdisciplinary research and arts unit within the UI Graduate College. The center's mission is to integrate study of the book in society with practice in the art of book production. It offers courses in book technologies and book history to graduate and undergraduate students, as well as to the Eastern Iowa community.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070,; Program: Julie Leonard, 319-335-0447,