Vicki Clough Curates

Musings on art and life.

From Pulp to Portraits- Lisa Kokin’s mesmerising found art

Lisa Kokin has an amazing website where she displays her extensive body of work. Her art straddles the border between found art and textile practice quite beautifully. She uses clothing, second hand books, buttons, photographs and other objects that might possibly communicate a personal and collective history. Lisa’s methods include pulping the innards of books to make new objects, creating whimsical looking objects out of the covers,  and stitching together an array of images and objects to cobble a collage of memory and emotion.

Recapitulation, Pulped books, PVA glue, wooden shelf, 10 x 72 x 10.25 inches, 2008

The Book Art explores the very many ways in which books can be remade into sculptures of varying nature and size. Above, Recapitulation is listed on the website under Pulped and Shredded One, along with works such as Abridged , Repressed Emotions, Room for Improvement and my personal favourite from this particular section Melancholy Rancher (below).

Melancholy Rancher, Books covers, shredded pages, mull, thread, wire, 79 x 27 x 7.5 inches, 2011

Melancholy Rancher, detail #1

Spines and Fragments One and Two is fun and colourful collection, these pieces, the artists hopes “… will create eternal happiness for the viewer in five days or less.” (They are made from self help books she has picked up in the local recycling centre) Also a part of the collection are Operation Betterment, Adapt or Perish, Me See How You Do It, My Answer, The Merchant of Venus and How To Stop Worrying and Start Living. (below)

How To Stop Worrying and Start Living, Self-help book spines, cotton batting, thread, waxed linen, dimensions variable, 2010 (detail)


Obviously there is a very witty, intelligent, and fun aspect to Lisa’s art, but the beauty of what she does is in the diversity of the work, and the emotions and issues addressed within the collections. The Book Collages project is an array of reconstructed books containing images and snippets of writing, cobbled together from Lisa’s collection. Pieces such as What I didn’t learn in Hebrew School, Equal Rights and Our Kind of Freedom seem to allude to deeper, more serious social histories. Installations Two openly displays the more serious aspect of Lisa’s work. She states “Many of my installations address the themes of Jewish history and the Holocaust, which cast a deep shadow over my childhood despite the fact that my family had immigrated to this country before the war.”  Unearthing and Never Forget are both moving and emotional, but by far the most haunting of these pieces is Remembrance (below). This installation conjures sadness and loss, represented by the empty shirts, suspended like ghosts in the gallery space.

Remembrance, Mixed media gut installation, dimensions variable, 1991

There is one project, in particular, which shows a much more personal part of the artists life, rather then focussing on process or a particular social, historical or political theme. The work in question actually has a certain resonance for me, being made from a collection of one of my favourite objects. Not only is the work lovingly compiled from family photographs, but skilfully executed as well. The art I’m referring to is Button Works. The series was sparked by the death of the artist’s father in 2001, after which she says she entered “a period of introspection and existential rumination.” It began as a memorial to her father, and lead to family portraits, all wonderfully and beautifully stitched together out of buttons. I think Lisa’s own words describes the work best-

“My work has always had an obsessive quality and this body of work is no exception. Every button is stitched to its neighbor to form a low-tech pixilated composition. Up close each piece is an abstract mélange of colors and shapes; the further back one stands the more decipherable the image becomes. This interplay between abstraction and representation is a source of interest to me. It is as though I am painting with buttons, building my palette as I go along. adding and subtracting until the interplay of colors and forms coalesces into a coherent image.”

Proximity, Mixed media buttonwork, 39 x 40 x .5 inches, 2003

Moment, Mixed media buttonwork, 66 x 36 x 1 inches, 2004


Leotard, Mixed media buttonwork, 33 x 13 x .5 inches, 2003 (detail)

Lisa’s work is a shining example of diversity and sensitivity of expression, employed with the intention of making the viewer smile, think, and sometimes feel sad.

As well as being a practitioner, she teaches workshops and runs courses, all of which can be found on her website, along with many more pictures of her extensive portfolio.



6 comments on “From Pulp to Portraits- Lisa Kokin’s mesmerising found art

  1. pearlyqueennotebook
    January 6, 2013

    Reblogged this on pearlyqueennotebook and commented:
    No post of my own this week, but had to reblog this – and not just for the button content!

    • e1aine
      February 1, 2013

      But the button content is very cool!

  2. lista de emails
    January 9, 2013

    great articles and stylish website, keep up with the good work guys.

  3. gonerustic
    January 15, 2013

    Absolutely stunning – what more can I say!?! =D

  4. hookandply
    March 1, 2013

    Incredible work, so inspiring. 🙂

  5. prettypinwork
    March 31, 2013

    Thanks for all the lovely comments! ❤

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2013 by in Art, craft, Curatorial Practice, Recycled Art and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
Vicki Clough

Vicki Clough

Vicki is an independent curator and craftsperson with a focus on socially engaged and participatory art and events. In January 2016 she helped launch Reconstructing Resilience, a research and curatorial project that explored various forms of sustainable practice. As a freelance curator she has worked with the Riverdale Hub, Myseum of Totonto/Art Spin and was the Curatorial Director of Figment Toronto from 2014 to 2017. She has also co-curated exhibitions including JAYU's iAM photography project (2016 & 2017), Move to Stillness, for the Harbourfront Centre's Kick Up Your Heels Festival (2015), The Duel, AGO First Thursdays (2014), and What Are You Made Of? OCAD U Graduate Gallery (2013). She initiated the Toronto based workshop model and website Polymers in Action: Socially Engaged Art and the Environment as part of her studies at OCAD University, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in Criticism and Curatorial Practice. She publishes on anything that interests her deeply and moves her to the point of lengthy verbal expression.

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