Still Harmony: The Work of Jacqueline Rush Lee

JRL Crescere (Devotion Series 2012-2013

Jacqeuline Rush Lee has been creating bookworks for over 15 years. Her work has been and remains a staple in most anthologies that deal with contemporary bookworks. 

In 1998 Rush devised an experimental process where books and periodicals were fired in controlled kiln environments and transformed into what Rush calls “fossilized” books where “the books were no longer recognizable in their usual context, but transformed into poetic remnants of their former selves–ephemeral and ghost-like forms suggesting internal landscapes and a trajectory of time, transformation and memory…”

These “poetic remnants” emit a still harmony that retains the power of the book while transforming them into spectacular works of art.

JRL Nous 2014 (There's no why Here)Nous 2014 (There’s no why Here). Manipulated Philosophy Book, Ink, Graphite. Reason & Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, Fourteenth Edition. Feinberg & Shafer-Landa

In recent years we have seen a constant chatter about the demise of the book while witnessing exponential growth in the number of artists working with books.

I asked Lee for her take on this apparent dichotomy: 

Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk about the demise of the book, but back when
I started working with books, I gravitated to the book form because of its
cultural and historical narrative, that I felt could be enriched further
through adding my own personal history and observations to create new
narratives—and this is how I still work.


Before the rise of the internet, there were no images of
book art out there, so I imagine that for many of us who were working in
this medium, especially for me, in Hawaii, most of us had no external frame
of reference, outside of our own educational backgrounds, imagination, or
geographical location. Certainly, there didn’t seem to be anything in the
way of Altered Books that I had heard of. Now, book art feels like it’s


Galleries now accept
it as a legitimate art form—but it has taken time. When I first started
showing my work, it was rejected by galleries and met with derision by those
who felt it sacrilege to use books as an art medium. I had one show of my
work in Honolulu in Chinatown, in which the work was actually spat on

JRL Lorem Ipsum III (Summer Reading Series) 2010-2012Lorem Ipsum III (Summer Reading Series) 2010-2012
A Reworking of the book THE TEN BAMBOO STUDIO Chinese Masterpiece Woodcuts
Manipulated Book Components with Hand-Stitched Elements
H22.5″ x W24″ x D9.5″
H57 x W61 x D24cm

JRL Endoskeleton 2000Endoskeleton 2000 a fired Biology book (From Ex Libris). Created experimental process to fire books in kilns with no clay intervention

JTL Vascellum 2013Vascellum 2013. Created out of Graphic Design books and Novels with Encyclopedic Covers

JRL Ode to Anselm 2013Ode to Anselm 2013 Devotion Series
Manipulated Book Components, InkH11″ x W12″ x L36″
H28 x W31 x L92cm

JRL I Found Buddha NatureI Found Buddha Nature: Reworking of ODaisha Sama’s Pictorial History of Kobo Daishi (Linear view) 2010
From the Summer Reading Series
Manipulated, hand-stitched Book, Acrylic Glass
H 7 x W7 x L 36 inches

top image: Crescere (Devotion Series 2012-2013

See more of Lee’s work at her website




, , ,