Jody Williams is the queen of the endearingly non-bombastic. Which, we hope, is a less polarizing way of calling her work “twee.” Granted, she’s a book artist—which, in the art world, evokes about as much swagger as stamp collecting, both activities being fueled by fussiness and a love for the antiquated. But even for someone enraptured by embossed lettering and hand-sewn binding, Williams skews toward the understated. She often works on a tiny scale, crafting bound editions no larger than a deck of cards, as well as miniature “specimen boxes,” which resemble micro curio cabinets seemingly designed for a doll house. Subject-wise, she also seems to champion the little guys. In fact, Williams first came to our attention two years ago with an ode to invertebrates: an exquisite, delicate show at Form+Content entitled “Small Orders,” in which she exhibited fossils alongside finespun naturalist drawings of crustaceans, beetles, and other noble-yet-spineless creatures. It was like bric-a-brac for a Wes Anderson movie. And it was great, even if your cynicism tends to bristle at such things.
For her follow-up show at F+C, which opens Thursday, September 6, Williams bucks the warm fuzzies for something far more cool and existential: an ode to nothing. The basis for “Starting from Nothing” is a lifetime’s worth of tossed-away photos, discarded because of their lack of any true subject or focal point. As Williams puts it: “ephemeral images of mist and clouds; things that are not really things, such as shadows and reflections; emptiness represented by holes or impressions; disappearing light and approaching darkness; infinitesimal fields of sand and grass; and evidence of things no longer there, such as footprints and bare trees.”
Such empty vistas become the building blocks for a series of sparse collages, hanging loosely with embossed text, postage stamps, and needle holes, all on delicate Japanese paper. Several more images have been bound together into a set of limited edition miniature books, each bearing a vaguely New Age title like Crystal and Light.
It’s a ballsy stab at poetry; a visual-art flirtation with haiku. But Williams is an ace when it comes to gentle elegance and quiet, honest craftsmanship. Expect an airy levity, as sippable as oxygen—and just as packed with seemingly nothing content.
Starting From Nothing
Opens Thursday, September 6
Reception Saturday, September 15, 6-9 p.m.
Form + Content, 210 N. Second St., Ste. 104, Mpls.