The following are examples of some of the works dealing with books and text. These works explore the role that the written word and knowledge, in the form of books, have played in the evolution of human culture. In these and other works, memory and narrative play a central role, because one of our distinctly human traits is our individual and collective memory and our ability to tell stories based on memory.
This installation is a meditation on books, the knowledge within them, and their place in our lives. Books, found objects, paint; 1997.
"Life on Earth" is a quartet of books that celebrates the diversity of life on our planet. Three of the books depict the major plant and animal groups. The fourth book depicts the four-letter genetic code T, G, A, C: a text that stands for the four nucleic-acid bases upon which all life is based. The four letters combine in countless ways to produce all of the life forms on earth. Books, plexiglass, paint, wood; each 9"x7"x2"; 2000.
"Earth Sea Sky" is a trilogy of books that do not open. Their contents are outside, not inside, each book. They are a metaphor for nature as our prime instruction book. Fish, fish scales, sand, book; 9"x7"x2"; 2001.
"Breaking the Code" addresses the human longing to get to the heart of the mystery of human existence and the impossibility of deciphering the indecipherable. Earth, plaster, books; 6' diameter; 2000.
"Palimpsest: Tree of Life/Carl Birky" is a memorial tribute to my late father, who was a sociology professor. For several decades he wrote research and class notes on 3"x5" index cards. Since many of these cards were written while we lived in Iran for two years, I decided to superimpose the pattern of a Persian rug that he purchased on the note cards, family photos and other memorabilia. The rug pattern is called "The Tree of Life", a fitting metaphor for my father's life and his family tree. In this piece, the cards, photos, memorabilia, and painted rug pattern create a palimpsest of several layers.
For this work, I chose quotations from five saints and mystics that were the inspiration for the contents of the five ladder structures. The ladders were inspired by St. John of the Cross's description of a mystic ladder of divine love by which the soul mounts to God. Wood, plaster, mixed media; each 67"x12"x3"; 1998.
"Bookworm" gives a new and literal interpretation to an old term. The bookworm is eating its way through The Book of Knowledge and Les Miserables. Books, wood, paper; 10"x13"x9"; 1998.
This piece celebrates the important role that seven overlooked objects and beings have played in the world: dirt, bread, worms, nails, string, paper, and the average person. Each object is accompanied by a written meditation on its role in human history.