Physical Exhibits

How Books Work, Flying Fish Press, 2010.

Please join us for the 2018 Bernstein Book Arts Lecture featuring Julie Chen on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.

The lecture is free and open to the pubic!

Memorial Library Room 126, 728 State Street, Madison, WI

Julie Chen is a distinguished book artist and dedicated teacher. Under her imprint Flying Fish Press she has produced nearly sixty limited edition books that explore the reading experience and the materiality of a book.  Her superbly crafted books include letterpress printing, lasercut elements, various print media, found objects, and inventive bindings and structures.

Her work addresses aspects of the human condition and the environment with themes such as time and memory, grief and healing, belief and faith, notions of truth, social injustice and climate change, among others.  This exhibit displays twenty-five captivating books that tackle those topics.

Chen began the Flying Fish Press in 1987 while studying book arts at Mills College (Oakland, CA), where she now teaches.  She had previously earned an undergraduate degree in studio art from UC Berkeley.   Chen has since gained an international reputation for her masterful and non-pareil work.

Chen:  “I liked the idea of the flying fish, which lives between the elements of air and water.  From the beginning I had the feeling that my work would be drawing from overlapping worlds such as the world of printing and typography and the world of bookbinding; the world of text and the world of image; the world of the reader and the world of the maker.”

Chen has done collaborative work with various artists such as Lois Morrison, Nance O’Banion, David Turner, and UW-Madison alumna Barbara Tetenbaum.   Rife with layers of meaning and elements of surprise, the books include Chen’s personal poetic narrative as well as text and images by others. Chen’s imaginative books require the reader’s physical interaction to explore them.  Tactile and sculptural, they often contain movable parts.

Chen: “Artist’s books are reading objects that take into account the experience of the reader not just with the content, but with the object itself.”

Chen exhibits her work regularly often teaches intensive book arts workshops around the country.  Notable institutions around the world have acquired Chen’s books.  Many, such as the University of Washington, Yale University, Stanford University, University of Vermont, Mills College, Yale University, and the University of Wisconsin, have substantial collections of her work.

This exhibit of Chen’s solo and collaborative work was curated by iSchool graduate students in the LIS: 855 Art Librarianship class.  The students are:  Sarah Cooper, Ellen Faletti, Mikaela Fortune, Mya Frieze, Michelle Herbrand, Sarah Lange, Matthew Mickelson, Michala Roberts, Laura Schmidt, Lisa Solko, and Heather Sonntag.

For more about Chen’s work, visit her website:

The exhibit runs March 14 – June 8, 2018.