Timothy C. Ely has spent his career creating books and learning the ways to do this which deliver an experience of mystery and delight — attempting to create an artifact which delivers the surprise one might feel encountering an unusual and compelling work hidden within a rare book collection.
The work which developed turns out to be thoroughly contemporary while also rooted in knowledge of the past — including methods chosen to deliver both the visual interest and the mechanical operation he envisioned.
Fortunately, this work has not gone un-noticed. Hope you enjoy at least a few of these.
Terrence McKenna, from the forward to “The Flight Into Egypt, Binding the Book” by Timothy C. Ely (Chronicle Books ©1995)
“I had never experienced the actual presence of the original Flight into Egypt until that moment, when alone, in good light… I removed the brass screws from a heavily insured wooden packing crate, lifted away the top, and gazed upon the work. Reality outran apprehension at last, and the thing lay before me.”
“There it was, the open tome — part book, part journey, part secret doctrine, part jewel. The heavy pages must be turned carefully; the aura of magical craft is inescapable. The impression is of cartography, landforms, and mindscapes.”
Johanna Drucker — “The Century of Artists’ Books” (©1995, Rev. ©2004)
“The spaces of Ely’s work are spaces of possibly unknown realities, alien or mysterious, the products of civilizations past or in some hybrid future.”
She continues, “This work intrigues the viewer because it seems to suggest the possibility of decipherment, a reading of a complex code according to a key whose power would release profundities from these pages.”
“The impact of Ely’s work comes in part from the sense that one is holding an original manuscript in one’s hands”. pp 93-96
Princeton University Library, GRAPHIC ARTS COLLECTION WEB Site (©2013)
“Graphic Arts is fortunate to own one of Tim Ely’s unique manuscript books, written in his own language and beautifully hand bound in covers of his own design and construction.”
“Collectors stand in line, waiting for Ely to finish these one-of-a-kind artists’ books, which he began making in 1971.”
The Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete & Visual Poetry, 1984, Miami Beach, Florida
“Timothy Ely is one of few artists in the Archive who has successfully combined unique, innovative book bindings with superb visual-verbal contents. We first became acquainted with his work when we learned of his one-man show in 1983 at the Eaton Shoen Gallery of San Francisco. Some time later, we had the occasion to visit the gallery and see his unique books firsthand. They overwhelmed us with their beauty. His images utilize imaginary map projections, surrealistic-like landscapes, and a made-up abstract calligraphic language. We acquired several books at that time and have continued collecting Ely’s work.”
Betty Bright — “Book Art in America, 1960-1980” (©2005)
“Ely concentrates his labors on the illumination of books with the same devotion that Tom Phillips applied to a Humument (1966-73), although Ely’s story resides in fantastical sites which we then populate with our own imaginings.” p 252
Marcia Reed, Glenn Phillips — Getty Research Institute “Artists and Their Books; Books and Their Artists” (©2008)
“While his books retain traditional shapes … their conventionality ends there. … For in the end, these are works of art. … We proceed through the book as we would through a church, passing stained glass windows as we approach the altar. Within painted covers and specially designed bindings, the book is a structure made to house Ely’s elegant and oblique shards of knowledge.” p 85
Roy Harley Lewis — “Fine Bookbinding in the 20th Century” (©1985)
Lewis quotes David Sellars, “It’s almost impossible to do everything properly. To make good art, one has to master the craft involved; you have to learn to mix paints so that they don’t disintegrate. It is up to every artist — whatever the discipline — to get the craft right.” Lewis continues from the quote, “That is a statement which cannot be faulted, yet he is the first to admit that there can be exceptions who are multi-talented, one is a former pupil, Tim Ely.” p 120
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