“In my childhood they were my escape. I traveled the world through books. I still love to touch them and smell them."
Visiting the bookmobile every week as a child—returning one stack, leaving with another—Austin artist, Karen Hawkins has always loved books. "In my childhood, they were my escape. I traveled the world through books. I still love to touch them and smell them."
Today Hawkins continues to surround herself with books—decommissioned ones, pulled from shelves, and discarded. Here she finds the materials and inspiration for her three-dimensional sculpted forms. "In creating small and large-scale sculptures from the pages of [these] old, forgotten books," notes Chris Cowden (executive director, Women and Their Work), "Hawkins deconstructs and re-purposes the meaning originally found there. The authority and significance of the printed page—harkening back to the first mass-printed book, the Gutenberg Bible—is becoming obsolete in the digital age. In Hawkins' work, the page assumes a different role, becoming a vehicle for nostalgia conveyed through the form. Her process (like reading) illustrates the passage of time but the meaning is perceived as visceral rather than cerebral."
In this manner, Hawkins creates totems, towering constructs from the sewn pages of old books. Turning the book inside out, the intricately folded pages become undulating, cylindrical structures having the appearance of lathe-turned spindles. Stacked, they reference what the artist sees as cultural icons, which speak to society's move from print to digital.
In her newest works, Hawkins continues to explore utilizing found objects to create metaphorical statements through her creation of her Peace Sign series. These pieces reflect her take on the correlation between the world’s views of today’s current events.