Exhibition to Highlight First Four McKnight Book Artist Fellows

Experience the exceptional work of these mid-career book artists January 21–April 1, 2023

This winter, in our Main Gallery, experience the exceptional work of the first four McKnight Book Artist Fellows: Paula McCartney (2020), Lisa Nebenzahl (2020), Mary Hark (2021), and Sonja Peterson (2021). 

Each year, Minnesota Center for Book Arts partners with the McKnight Foundation to offer two transformative fellowships to mid-career book artists living and working in Minnesota. Among other benefits, the fellows were each awarded two years of studio access at MCBA, allowing them to deepen their practice and explore previously unfamiliar processes and equipment.

Paula McCartney’s installation will include an artist’s book, marbled papers, and ceramic sculpture inspired by a hike down to the Nakalele Blowhole on the North shore of Maui. Drawn to the erosion caused by a continuous spray of saltwater, Paula made ceramic sculptures inspired by the rocks. “Also this past summer, I began to learn paper marbling,” she shares in her artist statement. “The style I am most drawn to is called ‘stones’ and dialogs in process and look with both the photographs of the rocks and the ceramic sculptures.” Paula is also the recipient of two McKnight Fellowships in Photography (2013, 2007). Her photographs have been exhibited nationally and her artist’s books are held in collections at the Walker Art Center, Museum of Modern Art, Getty Research Institute, and New York Public Library, among many others.

The Chico Poems

A multidisciplinary artist, Lisa Nebenzahl will exhibit two bodies of work produced during her fellowship, The Chico Poems and recent Box Works. “At the core of much of this work is my interest in manipulating imagery of shadows, clouds, water, and plants by folding the photographs into sculptural objects I call constructed photographs,” she writes in her artist statement. The Chico Poems uses cyanotype (sun prints) and letterpress to create a stunning “posthumous collaboration” with Lisa’s mother, Chico Nebenzahl, a testament to Lisa’s fascination with the passage of time. Additionally, twelve new box works continue Lisa’s exploration of adding a third dimension to 2D nature imagery. Lisa is a three-time recipient of the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant, and her work is held in collections across the country. She holds a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Mary Hark’s handmade papers transform ordinary materials into seductive fields of color and texture. “I am interested in making use of the intrinsic material qualities available with handmade paper,” says Mary in her artist statement. “Surfaces that can be dark and earthy, or luminous, airy, and elegantly fragile.” Mary’s practice has been dedicated to mastery of the craft of papermaking, developing a personal voice within the field, and sharing this work through teaching in a variety of communities. Mary has collaborated with her Frogtown, St. Paul neighbors to produce public artworks that were installed locally; she was also instrumental in bringing the first hand paper mill to West Africa and leading an initiative to produce high-quality papers using local botanicals and textile waste in Ghana. Her work can be found in many special collections, and she teaches in the Design Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sonja Peterson brings her large, hand-cut paper stories to MCBA for the second time; her first exhibition was in the Outlook Gallery in early 2019. These stunning papercuts, constructed from single pieces of paper, “draw the viewer into the details after the initial gaze of the whole narrative,” according to Sonja. The materiality of the work underscores the themes Sonja wants to highlight. “The works’ structural integrity is, at times, reliant on its interconnectivity; if elements disconnect, the entire system is in threat of collapse,” she shares. Her installation will also include handmade books, collage, stencils, and sculpture. In addition to the McKnight Fellowship, Sonja has received grants from the Jerome Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board, and will be a 2023 fellow at the Santa Fe Art Institute.

The 2020 & 2021 McKnight Book Artist Fellows exhibition is free and open to the public during MCBA’s operating hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10am–5pm, plus an extra couple of hours on Thursday nights, when we’re open until 7pm. A closing reception will be held on Friday, March 31, from 6–8pm. Join us!


The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive. Established in 1953, the McKnight Foundation is deeply committed to advancing climate solutions in the Midwest; building an equitable and inclusive Minnesota; and supporting the arts in Minnesota, neuroscience, and international crop research.


Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s arts program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1982. The McKnight Artist Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 14 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently the foundation contributes about $2.8 million per year to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit mcknight.org/artistfellowships.