Catching up with Terri Long

Posted on March 7, 2013 by

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terri long ex ex libris

This month, catch local artist Terri Long’s exhibit Ex Ex Libris at The Bridge. Inspired by The Virginia Festival of the Book and collage art, Terri developed a unique art that equals as a conversation piece on today’s book culture. With The Virginia Festival of the Book starting later this month, we asked Terri a few questions about her exhibit, her art, books, and the upcoming festival.

{View a slideshow of the exhibit’s opening for First Fridays.}

What inspired this reflection on the fading book culture in today’s society?

It could well have been my happening upon several cast-off dictionaries. They were all worn, well-thumbed and had spines crisscrossed with household tape in feeble attempts to keep hold of the pages and knowledge within. Someone wanted to save those books as they valued the content over the container. Until they didn’t. Even then, those dictionaries were recognized as still somewhat valuable, and were given away instead of thrown away. I wanted to explore and peck at that fluctuation we all feel in deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it. I’m a keeper.

terri long ex ex libris

Talk about how long you scavenged the textbooks and library bits for this exhibit. What places did you search and find some of the gems in the exhibit?

All collage artists are pack rats. We see value in everything and are the original hoarders. I’ve been amassing books in bits and pieces for about a decade scouring thrift stores and second-hand shops like a magpie seeking shiny. When I was heavy into my Reader’s Digest Condensed book phase, I was ordering boxes by the pound on eBay and posting Wanted ads on Freecycle. I’ve become quite a regular at the McIntire Recycling Center book bin. From afar, it looks like some unapproachable dark shipping container, which it is, but inside it’s practically a Reading Room! OK, for secondhand, discarded and sometimes musty books, but a friendly place (with a rocking armchair and lamp) that is a central location for dropping off or picking up unwanted books. I mine it regularly.

In a world of e-books and digital readers, how do you hope your exhibit re-instills value or significance to the hardcover book?

The Ex Ex Libris exhibit uses discarded text book covers with vibrant colors and graphic patterns that hark back to our primary and secondary educational system when textbooks were key tools and we couldn’t wait to inscribe our name in the inside cover. They are oddly familiar and recognizable. Books contain memories. We dog-ear them, quote them, clutch the covers and take them to bed. They are cozy, tactile, tangible and don’t require an electrical outlet. I can read the notes in the margin of any book, on any of the 12 bookshelves in our house, the same way I did 15 years ago and know it will still be there 10 years from now. While we own an iMac, MacBook, 2 iPhones, a Kindle and an iPad, I can’t say how many of them will be in use even 2 years from now. What’s that phrase, planned obsolescence?

When did you begin to create art out of books?

My first gallery show was created and pretty much inspired by the VA Festival of the Book, held every March in Charlottesville. I had been attending on and off for years, since moving away from the NoVa suburbs into an old Victorian house on Main Street in Gordonsville in the mid 90s. We filled the house with antiques, bric-a-brac and old books. I decided to take my collage art in a new direction and pair it with my love of old books.

I created my “Festival of the Altered Book” works in 2004 and lucked into a slot at Nature Visionary Art, to show in March 2005. Now defunct, it was quite the scene in its day. Run by two young artists, John Lancaster and Laurel Hausler, it featured local and national outsider and folk art. At the same time, I successfully applied to have a program in the 2005 Festival of the Book, which was held at Nature on Sunday 3/20/05. With my work and the shop as the back drop, Rhonda Roebuck (a mentor and fellow collage artist) and I led a discussion exploring the book—recycled, altered, revalued and renewed in shape and context—as art.

ExExLibris-Opening-Terri Long

What’s your favorite book(s)?

I am at a point in my life where I fall in love with each new book that I finally settle in to read. In fiction and poetry, I love the author who can take me to an unknown setting or mood. With nonfiction, I explore some new tangent in learning. I found reading such a chore as a child because of my inability to concentrate. I was always glued to the boob tube (TV) and never chose to read for enjoyment. I finally found my way past that in my early 20s.

I consider Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett favorites. On my nightstand currently are The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Authors I’ve read the most? Barbara Kingsolver, John Grisham, Bill Bryson and J.K. Rowling (I know, I know).

What’s your favorite bookshop in town?

I like New Dominion Bookshop for browsing and new books. Second hand, I favor Random Row for diversity and atmosphere and Daedalus for volume, selection and a workout on the stairs.

How will this exhibit coincide with the VA Festival of the Book later this month?

When I sent in my application to exhibit, I asked The Bridge to consider displaying my art during the month of March, as an apropos draw for the bibliophiles, poets, reference desk mavens and myriad others who come to Charlottesville for all things VaBook. We came to a happy agreement and I have the endorsement of nearly a dozen librarians, across 3 counties and 2 states.

Which event(s) are you most excited about?

Oi, my VABook (digital) book bag is stuffed! What can I say, I love free things and this is a terrific, free 5 day Festival. I hate to winnow out events, but I can’t possibly be two places at the once. Also employed full-time, so realistically limited. I am (of course) excited that The Bridge will host several evening events including the Big Blue Door Jam (with true story telling on the theme of Books) on Thursday 3/21 and The Emily Dickinson After party at the Bridge with Paul Legault (Paul deejays. Victorian dress is optional) on Friday 3/22.

I’m really keen on two back-to-back Sunday 3/24 events at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center: The Codex Is Not the Only Book: the iPad, the Poet, and the Artist and Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books. I may need to call in sick (cough, cough) to go to the Creativity: What Is It? 3/21 at CitySpace OR Appalachia: Voices of Place, 3/21 at The Student Bookstore.

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You can drop by The Bridge to see the exhibit Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm, or Saturday 10am-3pm.

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