Lost in the story

Artists create book to walk through at OBU

By Wayne Bryan

Sunday, April 1, 2012

— As with many artists, when asked about where their ideas come from, the Rives sisters go back to a childhood memory.

“Our mother used to talk about getting lost in a book,” Meda Rives said.

“So we got the thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to create a book that is large enough to walk into?’” Veda Rives said.

The twin-sister artists from Illinois have created a form of art they call Book Environ that “creates an immersion experience for the viewer to enter and explore that is shaped by art,” according to a brochure from the artists.

The visual arts department at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia invited the artists to create and exhibit a Book Environ in Hammons Gallery at OBU’s Mabee Fine Arts Center.

“They make art that is not meant for the wall,” said Donnie Copeland, an assistant professor of visual arts at OBU. “The work is good for a nontraditional gallery like the Hammons.”

The gallery is actually a hallway of the fine-arts building with three entrances and is bordered on one side by windows looking out onto a green-space plaza.

“Students from all over the campus could pass through the gallery during a day,” Copeland said. “It is a really nice hallway with nice natural lighting that will cause the art to change in its appearance as the light changes during the day.”

The “book” the visitors will see is without words, but each handmade sheet was constructed as part of the whole and helps convey a story or emotion, Meda said.

“This piece was created for this space and with traffic coming in from three directions,” she said. “It is called Confluence, Divergence, Concurrence. We like to create a space that will make people pause and look up.”

Veda said the sheets that are suspended by threads and over the heads of passers-by have a continuity of motion from one sheet to another that carries the view along.

“It is a wave motion,” she said, “so the reader can progress as the motion carries through the book.”

The motion implied by the piece appears as shadows running across the sheets, sometimes swirling in circles and sometimes converging as they bend to another page.

While the two sisters installed their work in the gallery on Tuesday morning, music came from the performance hall on the other side of the inside wall.

“There is almost always music going on in there with either a performance or practicing,” Veda said. “It combines with the natural sounds from outside as part of the changing environment.”

Meda said the energy carried in the music can also enhance the experience of viewers as they travel through the space created by the Book Environ. Veda even said placing the sheets was like making music.

“Putting things in place is a lot like tuning up an instrument,” she said. “We have to connect the fine threads with the right tension and make sure it is not too high or too low, or it would not be harmonious with the rest of the book.”

While the piece was installed and could be experienced on Tuesday, an opening reception will be held at 7 tonight at the gallery. The exhibit will remain through April 13.

“Veda and Meda have been widely recognized for their work,” Copeland said. “It is an opportunity for us to appreciate a kind of art-making that we all have less access to - paper-making - and to see it on display in a way that is not typical.”

The sisters, who established Mirror Image Press as their studio in Normal, Ill., have placed Book Environs throughout the United States and in Asia.

The exhibit is open to the public at no charge. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, contact Donnie Copeland at (870) 245-5559.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or

Tri-Lakes, Pages 129 on 04/01/2012