Tag Archives: Beth Thielen

THE LIFE OF AN ARTIST: BOOKMAKER, EDUCATOR, ADVOCATE

On Valentine’s Day, artist Beth Thielen spoke at FIT as part of ARTSpeak’s series, “Open Book: Conversations on Art and the Book.” Instead of love letters, she brought books.

Thielen is an artist known for her beautiful and fascinating book structures, like this one:

Beth Thielen’s “The Tower,” a tiny architecture from which four books unfold.

Take that, Kindle.

She loves the primitive technology of monoprints, a printmaking technique in which each impression is unique. The imperfections make the images look antique and wise.

But the technology that truly mystifies her is the interaction of writing and consciousness. “These little scratches of black on white paper jump through 12 inches of air into my mind,” she said. (Hue finds that the scratches jump more easily through 36 inches of air; perhaps it’s time for reading glasses.)

Beth Thielen, at right, with an admiring audience.

She talked about teaching art to inmates in California prisons, and she showed both their work and hers that they inspired. The images of struggle in the face of natural and cultural disasters were often haunting, but the forms–pop-up books, a miniature house–retained a sense of play.

“There’s something about people in prison and artists that understand deeply the need for freedom,” she said.

A collection of Thielen’s art books.

Her presence in the prisons served a second purpose, perhaps just as important: watchdog. When she was teaching, a prison guard killed an inmate; she helped ensure that justice was served.

“Almost all the prison art programs in California are gone,” she said, “which means there’s a lot less transparency in the system. It troubles me.”