Please join ZSR as we host an exhibit reception:

Friday, March 10, 4:00-6:00 pm

Exhibit: Abandoned Chronicle (Curator: Katie Wolf)

Art Books Room, 6th Floor-Reynolds Wing, ZSR


Guest Blog Post By Curator Katie Wolf

“My work is delicate; it may look strong, but it is delicate.
True strength is delicate. My whole life is in it.”
— Louise Nevelson

Abandoned Chronicle is a product of a sculpture class I took with Professor David Finn on public art in the fall of 2010. By the end of the course, we were to display our own works of public sculpture on campus. Success stories from this class were already all around campus — the Interfaith Arch next to Wait Chapel was made by Catherine Wilson (‘08), the Chain Figures on Hern Plaza were made by Will Garin (‘96), and the Swings on Davis Field were made by Mary Alice Manning (‘97). Comparing myself to these artists, I felt unsure I could make anything that would match what they had created.

My mother, a law librarian, filled my childhood home with books. Her sister was a children’s librarian, and their mother was a librarian, too, but my dyslexia made the book an intimidating object. Knowing that many libraries, including the ZSR Library, discard books regularly out of necessity, I spoke with a librarian who generously offered to save the books in a bin off to the side of the loading dock for me to pick up. I did not know what I would do with them, but I lugged a box or two back to the studios in Scales Fine Art Center every week. In October, my father unexpectedly died, and I found myself weighed down, not only by a pile of books and a looming assignment deadline, but by brutal grief.

Inspired by Night Zag III by Louise Nevelson — from the Wake Forest University Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art, hanging in Benson University Center at the time — I started painting each book in matte black, one by one, for weeks on end. This repetitive ritual gave me time alone to thinking about all the stories I loved about my dad and to mourn all the stories never to be told.

“But when I fell in love with black, it contained all color. It wasn’t a negation of color. It was an acceptance. Because black encompasses all colors. … You can be quiet and it contains the whole thing. There is no color that will give you the feeling of totality. Of peace. Of greatness. Of quietness. Of excitement. I have seen things that were transformed into black, that took on just greatness. I don’t know a lesser word.”
— Louise Nevelson

Entering exam week, I received permission to exhibit the books in ZSR. Returned in an all-new form and piled high, they occupied the space for a five-day installation. Altogether, the piece represents memory, loss, history, and destruction. The university purchased the sculpture for the John P. Anderson Collection of Student Art to remain in the permanent collection on campus. This vote of confidence was transformative for me.

Still, at the library, new publications come in, making old ones obsolete, and damage is often inevitable. Actions we associate with destruction and ruin can create new relationships between divergent materials. Preserving the decay of found, often ephemeral, materials rewards the close-looking of those searching for connections. 13 years later, I am grateful to the ZSR Library, WFU Art Collections, and the Interdisciplinary Art Center for their support in reinstalling Abandoned Chronicle in the Art Books Room of the ZSR Library.

Nevelson, a powerful American artist born in present-day Ukraine, constructed stories through sculpture that made her “the original recycler.” As my work is installed again, I know that all of me is still there. Staring at the black form, we are united.

“This is the Universe, the stars, the moon — and you and I, everyone.”
— Louise Nevelson