Gloria Helfgott was an innovative artist who was renowned as a book artist. Although Helfgott began her career as a painter in New York, it was the mixed-media form of book art that propelled her to prominence.
Book art is not to be confused with book illustration, which is art that accompanies text. In book art, the book is the work of art as well as the story. Words and pages are not necessary. Book art does resembles books in that they have the same form, and they both impart information. However according to Helfgott, book art “is visual and tactile, more than readable, and the viewer becomes actively involved . . . I believe people should look at the artist’s book as both fine art and sculptural literature.”
Helfgott graduated from Cooper Union and did graduate work in printmaking at Penn State University from 1958-1960. But it was a show by a book artist in New York, 30 years later, that gave her the inspiration to study book art, which she did with leading book artist Timothy Ely.
Her book art is distinguished by its strong architectural element and intricacies. Her 2004 “Wheels of Fortune” is made like a circular totem. Each of the six wheels stacked on top of each other represents languages used in telling the future. It is a circular narrative.
Her books can be found at the Brooklyn Museum, Stanford University Special Collections and University Archives, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and MoMA Library in New York.
More about Book Arts L.A., an organization she helped found, here.