The 2020 & 2021 McKnight Book Artist Fellows

On view January 21, 2023–April 1, 2023
MCBA Main Gallery

CLOSING RECEPTION: friday, March 31; 6–8pm
Free and open to the public

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. This winter, experience the exceptional work of the first four McKnight Book Artist Fellows: Paula McCartney, Lisa Nebenzahl, Mary Hark, and Sonja Peterson.  


2020

PAULA MCCARTNEY makes artist books, photographs, and ceramics that illustrate her collaborations with the natural world and consider ways that light activates both objects and environments. She has received fellowships in both Artist Books and Photography from the McKnight Foundation and grants from Women’s Studio Workshop, the Aaron Siskind Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. McCartney’s photographs have been exhibited nationally at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Her books are included in the artist book collections of the Walker Art Center, Museum of Modern Art, Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University, Getty Research Institute, New York Public Library among many others. She has two published monographs: Bird Watching and A Field Guide to Snow and Ice. She holds an MFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute and a certificate in Creative Studies from the International Center for Photography.

Artist Statement

This installation includes an artist’s book, marbled papers, and ceramic sculpture. It is inspired by a hike down to the Nakalele Blowhole on the North shore of Maui. While the blowhole is the obvious attraction I was drawn to the surrounding rocks that had been dramatically eroded from a continuous spray of salt water. I photographed these seemingly ready-made sculptures and several weeks later, during an artist residency at Hambidge, made ceramic sculptures inspired by the rocks. The repetitive and meditative process of carving away at the clay reminded me of the sound of the constant crashing of the waves at the blowhole. Also this past summer, I began to learn paper marbling. 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.

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2020

LISA NEBENZAHL creates work that ponders themes of resilience and fragility, loss and persistence and the passage of time. She explores these ideas using shadow and light, working with the natural world of plants, water and sky. Her interest in this imagery affirms the beauty of change and is a reminder of the temporal condition, embracing the interplay of chance and surprise that comes from observing and responding to the natural world. Her multidisciplinary practice includes sculpture, installation, historical printing processes and collage/montage. Nebenzahl is a three-time recipient of the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant and the 2020 McKnight Fellowship for Book Arts. Her work is in the collections of The Getty Research Institute, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston Hirsch Library, the Phoenix Public Library, Rare Book Room and the University of Colorado Boulder Rare and Distinctive Collections. Lisa holds a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Artist Statement

I will exhibit two bodies of work produced during my fellowship, The Chico Poems and recent Box Works. My current work explores challenging definitions of landscape and still-life. As an interdisciplinary artist, working with several media allows me to use a wide range of processes to explore printmaking, case/box-making, folding, and montage. 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. I work with a variety of techniques, from historical processes including cyanotype, platinum, and photogravure printing to building unique photographic objects.

The Chico Poems is a suite of eight poems contained in a custom designed case. This project was inspired by my late mother Chico Nebenzahl (1916-2000), who penned the poems in the early 1940s. With the support of the McKnight Fellowship for Book Artists, the project took a year to produce as I employed the light of the sun to create the cyanotype prints in the spring, summer, and fall of 2021. Letterpress and cyanotype printing come together to share these short, sometimes acerbic poems. A posthumous collaboration with my mother, who wrote poetry and fiction in her in twenties in Chicago but never shared them widely, gave me a chance to bring these poems out of their long rest and into the light. The suite has recently been acquired by the The Museum of Fine Arts Houston Hirsch Library, the Phoenix Public Library, Rare Book Room, and the University of Colorado Boulder Rare and Distinctive Collections.

In Box Works, twelve new box works continue my consideration of the photograph as object and the elusive qualities of the natural world. They invite us to enter a space where abstraction, landscape, and nature share space. My exploration of folding and constructing new images in three dimensions creates new ways to observe and experience shifts and changes in the natural world. My interest in shadows is an affirmation of the beauty of change and a reminder of the temporal condition. The constructions are made with rice papers in the shapes of pentagonal dipyramids, octahedrons, square trapezohedrons, and cuboctahedrons. 

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2021

MARY HARK is the proprietor of HARK! Handmade Paper Studio, located in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul for more than 20 years. She produces limited editions of flax and linen handmade papers in collaboration with book designers and artists, as well as unique paper artworks that have been exhibited internationally. Hark leads an initiative in Kumasi, Ghana, building the first hand paper mill in West Africa capable of producing high-quality papers using local botanicals and textile waste. An artist committed to sustainable practice and community, Mary has collaborated with her neighbors to produce public artworks that are installed locally. Mary Hark’s work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, the Ginsberg Book Arts Collection in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in many university special collections. Hark is regularly invited to teach workshops and lecture on papermaking at art centers nationally and is a professor in the Design Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Artist Statement

My practice has been dedicated to mastery of the craft, developing a personal voice within the field, and sharing this work through teaching in a variety of communities. Receiving the McKnight Fellowship is a wonderful, deeply appreciated affirmation of this work. The award has allowed me time and space to reflect on knowledge I have accrued and respond with a new body of work that celebrates and extends what I had already accomplished.

In hand papermaking, ordinary materials are transformed into seductive fields of color and texture—the possibilities endless. As a production papermaker, I make variable editions of paper, often with complex color. Producing paper with compelling surfaces is a great pleasure, celebrating fine craft and satisfying my deep interest in process. As an artist who uses paper as her primary material, I also make ‘constructed paintings’. These pieces may be quite small, like a page in a book, or very large, referencing curtains or blankets. Building these works, I am interested in making use of the intrinsic material qualities available with handmade paper: surfaces that can be dark and earthy, or luminous, airy, and elegantly fragile.

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2021

SONJA PETERSON is a working artist in Minneapolis and has been awarded the 2021 McKnight Fellowship in Book Arts and received grants from the Jerome Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Peterson will be a 2023 fellow at the Santa Fe Art Institute and has been the Artist in residence fellow at the Bell Museum of Natural History and the American Swedish Institute.

Sonja Peterson received her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and her MFA from the University of Minnesota. Peterson also works for the Department of Art, UMN.

Artist Statement

My work is an ongoing exploration of humans, nature and movement. Work includes handmade books, collage, stencils, sculpture and large hand-cut stories out of paper that are suspended in space with multiple vignettes throughout a single piece to draw the viewer into the details after the initial gaze of the whole narrative. The slow process of cutting stories into visual networks is an action that fulfills a need to reexamine and unravel histories of the endless matrix of power structures and systems in today’s world and retell stories of their making. The works’ structural integrity is, at times, reliant on its interconnectivity; if elements disconnect, the entire system is in threat of collapse. The work addresses humans’ role in the acceleration of the reweaving of nature disrupting a long continuum of migrations and evolution.


About the McKnight Artist Fellowships Program

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.

Read the McKnight Artist Fellowships Community Values.

About the McKnight Foundation

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.