A University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library Special Collections exhibit is going on the road for the first time.
Special Collections and the Association for Visual Arts (AVA) have organized an exhibition of art pieces and fine bindings created by Barry Moser, a native of Chattanooga and a 1962 graduate of the University of Chattanooga. The presentation, titled “Transformation: Exploring the Art of Bookmaking with Barry Moser,” will take place from April 14 to May 26 at AVA, located at 30 Frazier Ave. on Chattanooga’s North Shore.
With 36 pieces slated to be on display at AVA, this is believed to be the largest exhibition of Moser’s art to be exhibited in the Chattanooga area. AVA will be hosting an exhibition kickoff, open to the public, from 6-9 p.m. on April 14.
Artist and educator Moser, 82, is most recognized for his work as a printmaker specializing in wood engravings and as an illustrator of numerous works of literature. He has been the owner and operator of Pennyroyal Press since 1970.
Special Collections houses the most extensive collection of etchings, engravings, original watercolors and books illustrated by Moser and contemporary fine bindings produced by Pennyroyal Press, a company he has owned since 1970. Special Collections is also home to papers documenting Moser’s relationships with other authors, artists and printers.
The Special Collections exhibit will explore the art of bookmaking through Moser’s work. Although prolific throughout his career, the following projects have been chosen as particularly relevant to the themes of creation and transformation for the AVA exhibit: “The Death of the Narcissus,” Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” and the Pennyroyal Caxton edition of the Holy Bible—a limited edition seven-volume masterpiece.
The exhibition has primarily been curated by Special Collections intern Emily Ruiz, a UTC senior majoring in English: rhetorical writing with a minor in art history. She also is a part-time staff member at AVA after first serving there as an ArtsBuild Opportunity Fellow.
“This has been a year-long internship where Emily has been working on everything from selecting the pieces to conducting interviews with the artist,” said Carolyn Runyon, assistant head of collection services for the UTC Library and director of special collections. “She has worked to get a sense of what he thinks about the pieces she’s selecting to help her make selection decisions and further document his artistic process.”
Ruiz’s Special Collections internship is supported by the UTC Office for Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor.
A native of Nashville, Ruiz said conducting the virtual interviews with Moser has given her an excellent opportunity to see the totality of his career.
“When you look at all of his work, it is very dark,” she said, “but then he also has his children’s work, which is really cute and it’s watercolor; it’s really lovely. He definitely has a wide range.
“It’s funny because he doesn’t like the title artist; I think he prefers Booksmith. The exciting thing is that we have a lot of editions that were printed in very limited quantities.”
AVA Curator and Education Director Tim Goldsmith credited Ruiz for doing all the legwork.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity and a fulfillment of the work that she has been doing with us—merging both her work at UTC as a student and her work supporting arts here in Chattanooga,” Goldsmith said. “Through her work here at AVA and at UTC, there was an opportunity to create this exhibit. She approached us about the idea and it fits our mission and scope.”
AVA is a nonprofit arts organization supporting the local artist community of Chattanooga. The organization’s gallery has a rotation of about 10 exhibits a year highlighting the work of members and local and regional artists. AVA also runs the 4 Bridges Art Festival and the Between The Bridges Festival.
“What’s really important to me is collaboration and working with other arts organizations and institutions in the city,” Goldsmith said. “We’re just thrilled for the opportunity to work with Special Collections.”