As a librarian, Jody Alexander manages and organizes information and materials. Imagine her behind a 1940s reference desk, ready to find a kernel of information someone’s searching for. This imagined Alexander perches on a wooden chair, looking out with benevolent intelligence from behind that desk. Here she deploys the connectivity that exists within a massive oak catalog organized on the Dewey Decimal System, hunting for Iroquois beaded belts, wielding associative brainpower and the codes typed on index cards contained within the catalog’s preternaturally deep wooden drawers. We need not imagine, as we’ve seen the evidence, that such old books, vintage wooden chairs, deep drawers, thumbed index cards, long, high information desk might be part of an artwork by Alexander, a benevolent intelligence engaged on an unique artistic journey, very worth following.
Though indeed a librarian, Alexander is an installation/assemblage/conceptual artist, bookbinder and creator of extraordinary altered books, and the stories attached to all of them. Many of her most potent works organize themselves around characters Alexander seemingly channels from the astral regions: distinctive personalities made corporeal through collections of objects arranged to reveal the preoccupations and predilections that govern them. Through these things they “left behind,” the characters live on—or live at last.
The pharmacist’s daughter occupies that richly aged wooden box containing curious bottles of mysterious origin and a chapbook written in undecipherable code, bespeaking a secretiveness and a hidden knowledge that perhaps one day will be revealed. Ruby B’s poignant history and curious essence fills a quaintly antique room installed with half-finished sewing, open scrapbooks, framed photos and notes bespeaking a life of passionate longing. The Curious Volumes of Ruby B. is also a collection of altered books, exquisitely crafted objects of high concept. The materials long to be touched—puffy cotton batting, felt, silky thread, sturdily transparent bookbinder’s mull, pages, photographs and entire old books, often with their spines exposed as if to reveal the vulnerability and resilience of the ideas within. Alexander literally and figuratively stitches ideas together.
In “Sediments,” an exhibition just opened at the Mohr Gallery at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, the artist ponders the ephemeral nature of human life in relation to the persistence of the objects we accumulate. “Sediments” discovers books within the “sediment” of a household, sunk into the stuffing of a chair, packed open flat, layered for safekeeping in tree-ring time capsules within a bookcase.
The physical, sensual and tangible works Alexander creates are themselves exquisite, but more importantly, they are materializations of her ideas, her code, her intellectual journey.
Sediments continues at the Mohr Gallery, Community School of Music and Arts, Mountain View through May 31. Visit arts4all.org for more information. The Odd Volumes of Ruby B. opens at Saffron And Genevieve, 910 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 462-4506. May 3-31 with a First Friday reception May 6.