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The book arts have been one of the most fulfilling endeavors in Melissa Jay Craig's still–evolving career.

"Working with paper consolidated all my varied interests into a whole that never becomes stagnant. I love that there's always an unknown, experimental factor, a dialogue with the material that keeps me fascinated," said the Chicago artist and instructor.

Craig is exhibiting a series of works, "Transcriptions," in the Brincka/Cross and Robert Saxton Galleries at Michigan City's Lubeznik Center for the Arts through Oct. 2. She was reared in Cleveland and studied art there at the Cooper School of Art. She furthered her studies at Chicago's School of the Art Institute, where she received bachelors and master's degrees.

Over the course of the past two decades, Craig has taught in Chicago at her alma mater, Loyola University, Gallery 37 and Columbia College. She has also lectured and held workshops at education institutions and art organizations throughout Chicagoland and as far away as New Mexico, North Carolina and throughout the Eastern Seaboard.

An accomplished painter, installation artist and sculptor, Craig was introduced to the book arts in the '90s through the School of the Art Institute.

"I love the infinite variety of texture, tactility and surface that can be derived from the fibers themselves, and also its malleability, the fact that paper can be manipulated to resemble almost any other material on earth, natural or manufactured," she said. "I love its toughness contrasted with its perceived fragility, its delicate appearance.

"It is enormously satisfying to be working with renewable, sustainable source materials, from plants to recycled fibers," she added. "It's in harmony with my world–view and my politics."

Over the years, Craig has sustained substantial hearing loss, which she said played a major role in the work she creates today.

"At a later point, I made a conscious decision not to use conventional language, words in linear sentences, in my work, even though I was focused on making books," she said. "I wanted my work to reflect my life and experiences: to emphasize alternative forms of communication, of awareness."

"Transcriptions," which opened July 1, is made up of 88 paper pieces grouped together to create six large works.

"Ideally, I hope the viewers come away feeling the same sort of indescribable enrichment they might feel after reading an excellent, absorbing book of any kind," Craig said.

Lubeznik Center for the Arts is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

 

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