Ewa Zebrowski's "Slow Art"

Artist Ewa Zebrowski presenting her work to the Library Fellows.

Yesterday, NMWA’s Library Fellows gathered for their annual meeting. This year the Fellows—NMWA members who support the Library and Research Center and artists’ books exhibitions and programs—received a special treat: a presentation by photographer and book artist Ewa Zebrowski. Although Zebrowski is fairly new to the book art world—she created her first artist’s book in 2001—she has been involved in film and photography for more than thirty years. To Zebrowski, a book is a “secret place, available only to those who take time to look inside, turn the pages, and reflect.” She views artist’s books similarly, as a “slow art” that requires time for musing and letting your imagination run free.

Zebrowski was born in London, England, and grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Her family is from Poland and she appreciated that in creating some of her works about her mother, she has been able to reconnect with her family. The two main inspirations for her more recent artist’s books are Venice and poetry. From 2004–2007, she created a series of three books to celebrate her favorite poets. Her book about Joseph Brodsky is inspired by his book about Venice, Watermark, and is an interpretation of Brodsky and her own view of time and place. For her book about Robert Frost, she embraced the New England landscape, imagining herself roaming through the woods that inspired Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” And the third book in the series, which honors Mark Strand, consists of photos from the coast of Maine, an intersection of images words, and landscapes.

Image from Zebrowski's artist's book "remembering brodsky," 2004

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said.
“Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it.”
–a fragment of a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan

from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Over the last seven years, Zebrowski has made four trips to Venice, a city she considers “elusive and “ephemeral,” a place that she always wants to return to to discover more. She wanted to create a small, intimate book with tiny, fragile images—not photographs, but captured moments in time—that reflect the melancholy she feels from the city. Vedute di venezia, 2006, includes 27 captivating color images.

A spread from Zebrowski's artist's book "vedute di venezia," 2006

Her most ambitious book to date is tenute di ricordi, which is about Spannocchia, “an ancient domain in the heart of Tuscany, a place caught in history and in memory.” Zebrowski wanted to explore the connections between geography, language, identity, and memory, and reveal a place full of secrets and history. The text is by Pascale Quiviger.

Zebwoski’s book can be found in the Special Collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec, Brown University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, the University of California Berkeley among many other university and private collections. She is currently working on a book called end of beauty, a meditative book about the cycle of life, among many other projects.

To view Zebrowski’s work, visit www.ewazebrowski.com.

–Vivian Djen is editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The Library Fellows support the Museum’s renowned artists’ books program and exhibitions as well as the Library and Research Center. Every other year, the Fellows award a grant of up to $12,000 to publish a limited edition artist’s book selected in a national and international competition. For information on becoming a Library Fellow, call 202-783-7365. Stay tuned to read about the winner of the 2010 award.