Exhibition reveals therapeutic power of book making

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Tattoo (2001) by School of English

Artwork by a little-known US artist, who used book making as a form of therapy in her battle against cancer, will go on show at an exhibition organised by the University.

Entitled Prescriptions, the exhibition of the work of the late Martha A Hall will feature 15 of her books which are being shown in the UK for the first time.

Described as revealing ‘the therapeutic and empowering potential of art whereby artists’ books become an alternative kind of prescription’, it will take place at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge from 21 April-14 August.

As well as the books from the Martha Hall Collection, on loan from the Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, and a documentary featuring Hall, entitled I Make Books (2004). The exhibition will feature around 90 artists’ books by national and international artists responding to themes of illness, healing and wellbeing and using a wide range of production methods, materials and structures.

The exhibition is linked to a University research project, entitled Artists’ Books and the Medical Humanities, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust. Its focus is on how the intimacy, immediacy and complexity of the artist’s book medium not only challenges the conventional book form but also offers a palpable experience of the patient’s world.

The project, which is being led by Dr Stella Bolaki, Senior Lecturer in American Literature at the School of English, also includes an interdisciplinary symposium and practical workshop, supported by the Macmillan cancer charity, and seeks to bring together academics, health professionals, patients, carers and artists with an interest in wellbeing.