Iowa Artist Sara Langworthy Wins International Book Art Prize

Courtesy of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts

Left: interior spread from Sidereal; Right: Sara Langworthy

Minneapolis — As part of our 35th anniversary celebration, Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) is proud to announce that the winner of the 2020 MCBA Prize is Sara Langworthy for her artist’s book, Sidereal. Acclaimed curator, writer, and historian Betty Bright selected Sidereal from an ever-narrowing pool of 158 submissions, 32 finalists and five finalists.

The MCBA Prize was founded in 2009 as the first honor to recognize contemporary book art from across the field and around the world. Along with a cash prize of $2,000, Langworthy also received an essay written by Betty Bright which examines the beauty, skillfulness, and relevance of her work. In the essay, Bright praises Langworthy’s book for illuminating a painful analogy between close-seeming (yet ever distant) stars and human relationships.

The word sidereal dates to the seventeenth century and refers to distant stars; sidereal time is based on the Earth’s rate of rotation measured relative to the fixed stars (Wikipedia).

Langworthy, who is an Associate Professor at the University of Iowa Center for the Book, began “accidental research” for the project in 2017, ahead of the total solar eclipse in the United States. Interested in the sky and browsing old astronomy textbooks, Langworthy happened upon The Heavens (1873) by Amédée Guillemin. As Juror Betty Bright writes, she recognized “the bones of poetry” in Guillemin’s prose. Langworthy excerpted and reshaped this language to explore questions of distance and perspective:

We draw a map,
to bridge the immensity of this abyss
to measure and express the fearful distance.

“Visually the book is stunning, replete with openings of coruscating starscapes,” Bright writes, explaining how Langworthy built the book’s “velvety imagery” by combining relief-printed collagraph blocks and pressure printing, layering the inks until stars slowly emerged.

Due to safety precautions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the planned in-person exhibition shifted online. All 158 submissions, including the 32 semi-finalists, four finalists, and the winning work, are on view at mcbaprize.org. Images of the artwork—and, in the case of the winner and the four finalists, video—are contextualized with artist statements and bios.

According to Bright, the four finalists also “explore and express the tenor of today” with an authentic voice.

Finalists for the 2020 MCBA Prize each receive a $500 award:
    •    Hyewon Jang, Urtod
    •    Ravikumar Kashi, ‘Everything will be remembered’ a palimpsest.
    •    Veronika Schäpers, A Darkened Boat
    •    Peng Wu and Jammo Xu, Arriving Ashore – a memorial for the lives lost in the forceful migrations

The winner was announced at the virtual MCBA Prize Reveal & Live Artist Talk on Friday, October 23, 2020, which also featured a brief first-hand account of our 35-year history from Betty Bright, who helped start MCBA. After the winner announcement, guests were treated to an artist talk between Bright and Langworthy, a participatory Q&A, and a toast to MCBA’s anniversary with a special “MCBA 35” cocktail. A recording of the event is viewable here

New to this year’s award categories is the People’s Book Art Award. The winner—chosen by you, the people—also receives $500. We invite you to cast your ballot for the People’s Book Art Award at mcbaprize.org by January 10, 2021.

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