Meet the Artist: James Prez
Jim Prez's artwork finds a welcome home at the Mulberry Street Library. His 'book-tures' (sculptures comprised of a book base with found objects artfully fastened atop) make inspired use of thrift store bric-a-brac and second-hand books. I spoke with Jim about his booktures and other art projects.
What is your background in art-making?
I have been making things since grade school but very early on I took to photography and worked on making photographs for many years. I don't have an art degree from college but I did get an MFA in Photographic Studies from Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY. Much of my background in art comes from looking at books from libraries in the various cities that I have lived in. I have tried to make at least one thing every day since 1977.
What was the inspiration for the idea of creating these booktures?
I was visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art and noticed that there were more people waiting in line to have their pictures taken with the Rocky Statue than were going to the museum. I figured that I could make more interesting works for people to visit and be photograhed in front of than the Rocky bronze so I started working on maquettes for monumental sculptures. The "booktures" came directly from that idea.
Who are some of your artistic (or other) influences?
I try not to be influenced by other artists' work but I surely do love looking at other artists' work. There are so many that it would be difficult to name them all. Of course I would have to list Vincent van Gogh, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Mitchell, Georgia O'Keefe, Lee Krasner, Yayoi Kusama, Howard Finster, James Castle and Richard Tuttle. I have been fascinated by the work of Suzanne Goldenberg for the past few years. Her work is pure magic. I love artists who make work but aren't concerned with selling, showing or getting reviewed. Work that comes from the heart and soul.
Does the title of the book play any role in what gets put on top of it?
The title of the book rarely plays a role in the book. I wish I was smarter and more clever in that regard. The book, however, is the point of departure for the work. I play off its shape, size and color.
Where do you find your found art?
I spent a year looking for the raw materials, for my booktures, in thrift stores, junk stores, and at the Salvation Army, garage sales, church sales, library sales, stoop sales and on the street.
I also visited the Strand two or three times a week during that year. I took another two years to assemble and photograph the booktures. There are approximately 250 of them. I stopped making them but did make three new ones for the Mulberry Library show.
Obviously your work includes books—was this your motivation for displaying work in libraries?
Yes, absolutely. The library is free and open to all. I like that idea very much!
Where else do you show your work?
I show my work in galleries, museums, artist spaces and on the street.
I like to post things on Facebook also. Printed Matter has been selling my bookverks since 1988. I will have had 25 years of bookmaking and finished my 500th book by the year's end. (2013)