“Artist Judith Brotman invites you to read aloud to her for approximately 45 minutes from a book of your choosing. … Ideally the reading will last between 30-45 minutes. And I ask that the reader choose to share a text that holds meaning to him or her.”
Evanston RoundTable readers and Evanston Public Library users may have seen these words before. Ms. Brotman says she needs a lot more readers for her project than have responded so far.
It is a good bet that in Evanston, many booklovers have seen her invitation and wondered. After all, this is a town where, when one of the branch libraries closed, private residents banded together to provide services until it reopened.
EPL has welcomed the Art Institute instructor and artist, who knows the library well and hopes its diversity and the City’s will be represented in those who come to read for her. The Library, she says, and Lesley Williams, head of Adult Services, in particular, have been “incredibly generous and so very helpful in facilitating the project.”
Ms. Brotman’s newest project is conceptual in nature, grounded in the act and event of one person’s reading to another. Ms. Brotman says that the reader “brings so much joy to the reading” when he or she has chosen the material with care, that “the designations of artist and audience kind of melt away.” There arises the possibility, she says, of a “transformative relationship between self/artist [Ms. Brotman herself, the listener] and the reader.”
She records the readings and takes several pictures afterwards. This, Ms. Brotman says, is to have a concrete referent to reflect on. She adds, however, that though she may use the material in the future (she asks for readers’ permission) as the project evolves, she “see[s] each reading as an individual performance, complete in itself.”
Ms. Brotman’s work has developed and changed since she earned her fine arts degrees at the Art Institute and her K-12 arts teaching certificate at Loyola. She began with weaving – actual fiber – after realizing her original intentions of becoming a physician were really not what she wanted to do.
Her first teacher at the Art Institute was Evanston resident Anne Wilson, “a brilliant artist and an extraordinary teacher,” says Ms. Brotman, who had had no previous formal training in art.
“Life changed on its axis for me,” Ms. Brotman says. She went on to do mixed-media sculptures, many of which included elements of weaving, both literal and figurative, and the construction of enveloping, immersive installations. Much of her work, if not all, has been related to books, thought and reading. At least one of her earlier projects consisted, for example, of books she had altered. Her wall installations have contained texts as well.
She “loved – and loves – being a maker,” she says, but a few years ago she began to feel something was missing.
Then, about a year ago, her strenuous work in sculpture took its toll and one of her hands was severely injured. She had to give up some of her practices. This was when “something began percolating,” Ms. Brotman says, and her newest work came into focus. “The heart and soul of this new work is not so different,” she says, from her physical work from before her injury.
Adults who would like to participate may register online by clicking on their preferred Sunday on “The Reading Project” on the EPL calendar at www.epl.org and following the instructions, or by calling 847-448-8630.