Talker readers know Michael J. Nighan as our primary historical researcher, tirelessly toiling in the archives of the Rochester Public Library’s Local History Room in the Rundel Memorial Building, uncovering discoveries on presidents, assassins and literary luminaries who have passed through our fair city.
Recently, I discovered Michael is also a mixed media artist.
When approaching the LHR, in the Anthony Mascioli Gallery in Harold Hacker Hall, I chanced upon the 2018 edition of the 8th Annual International Juried Exhibit: Art of the Book: Artists Books and Altered Books.
To my pleasant surprise, Michael received an Honorable Mention in the “Altered Book” category for The Accordion Box of Short Stories.
Running through January 9, 2019, Art of the Book showcases intricate interpretations of written and printed work from established and emerging artists. Over 70 pieces from more than 20 states, as well as Canada, Europe and South America are featured in two categories: “Artist Book,” conceived as art in its own right with bindings and illustrations; and “Altered Book,” a form of mixed media artwork that transforms the appearance of a book — either in its entirety or in pieces — and subsequently creates a new art form with a new meaning.
As described on the RPL website:
Books continue to ensnare the imagination, both for their form and content. Artists manipulate those two components to create breathtaking, mind-bending works of art which tease and cajole people to consider the intricacies of paper, ink, words, and meaning. You will find all of this and more in this year’s Art of the Book exhibit!
To learn more about Michael’s avocation, I asked him to expound beyond his witty Artist’s Statement.
Your mixed media piece, The Accordion Book of Short Stories, blends the genres of music and short fiction. What responses do you hope to illicit from viewers?
As to audience reaction or what message they’d get from my piece or from the show, I never gave that a thought. What I did think about came from three flashes of inspiration (?) which hit simultaneously. 1) An accordion book made from a real accordion would be a good play on words, 2) a book should contain a story/stories, and an “accordion” book should carry along the pun theme so, 3) I’d need to write my own stories.
Your livelihood was not in the arts or arts education. How did you balance your career and your “outside” interests? What are the advantages/disadvantages of being a non-professional vs. a professional artist?
Being retired I have no conflict with my career and my (ahem) “art”. I only started dabbling in it in the last year. The chief difference I see between myself and professional artists is that I don’t have to take my work, or myself, as seriously as professionals do.
Have your projects connected you with others in the local arts community?
As to connections with the local arts community, outside of a couple of people I know who are involved with community orchestras, I don’t have any involvement. This year I also submitted work to RoCo’s 6X6 exhibition/sale (they all sold). Having no artistic ability, I used a photocopier, paper and a pair of scissors. I’ve also started entering photography contests,