Julie VonDerVellen transforms recycled library books into nostalgic art.
In January 2021, Julie VonDerVellen
drew inspiration from the intersection of quarantine, books, and nostalgia to create a moving series of small sculptures. The challenge – Milwaukee’s 7th
annual 30x30x30 – asks local artists to make one piece of art a day, for 30 consecutive days, within a 6”x6”x6” dimension.
An Assistant Professor in Carroll's Graphic Design
program, Julie participated in the challenge in between academic terms. An educator and an artist, Julie found herself reflecting on all the virtual teaching and learning she was doing, and felt a strong pull to “create a tangible experience for her students.” Given the amount of time her students were spending in front of cameras and screens, Julie really wanted to put something tangible -- a book -- in their hands. So she called the Carroll University's Todd Wehr Memorial Library
But Julie learned that the pandemic – the reason for so much screen time and #ZoomFatigue – was also affecting books. Julie wanted to put books on reserve for her students so they could hold and touch something meaningful. But she learned that library books are put into quarantine for three days when they’re returned, so putting books on reserve
was not a viable option.
But the idea for On Reserve
Julie writes: “On Reserve narrates the value of reading, research, and the centric role of the book within a student’s educational experience by utilizing recycled Carroll University library textbooks. During a year of virtual and hybrid learning, the book has remained a reliable, tangible source for information – serving as a healthy escape from the persistence of obligatory screen time. These pieces weave a network of assignments, diverse course content, and learning methods into a display of nostalgic objects signifying the renewal of an academic term.”
For Julie, creating this exhibition helped her kickstart her creative practice as she "turned her sculpture brain back on" after doing so much two-dimensional work. While creating a new sculptural piece every day for 30 days was an art-making marathon, for Julie the experience was also inspiring and meditative.
The full exhibition from the challenge is at Var Gallery, in the Walker’s Point neighborhood of Milwaukee. You can follow this link
for a virtual tour of the exhibition, and listen as Julie talks about her work on the podcast
“Authentic Obsessions,” re-broadcast by CU’s The Box Office Insider.