Kerith Lisi cuts and re-assembles book covers to create compositions that present a mastery of color theory and speak to the poetic nature of the material she works with. As the artist explains, “I’ve always loved the feel and look of a well-worn book with evidence of handling in soft velvet patches with handwritten notes preserved inside.” Kerith’s work encourages us to slow down and notice the details; the imperfections, textures, colors and signs of age on each book cover piece’s surface. By repurposing old books that would otherwise be recycled, she is able to create something new and unexpected that still carries forward the story of the material.
In preparation for her book cover collage pieces, Kerith uses embroidery thread to work out various color combinations and this attention to color theory is evident in her work. Kerith’s work reflects her interest in interactions between values as her compositions harmonize vibrant and sometimes surprising color palettes. She then turns to her source material to bring the palette together which involves a meditative process of adding and subtracting pieces. The shapes in Kerith’s compositions seem to defy the rigidity of their stiff medium as they form radiating circles, soft curves, triangles and stacked rectangles that vary in size.
Due to the tactile and re-assembly driven nature of her work, Kerith has found inspiration in contemporary and traditional quilting practices involving reusing scraps such as Japanese boro, Korean pojagi, and the improvisational quilts from Gee’s Bend. Learning about quilting layouts has informed Kerith’s own practice, despite the difference in materials. From these points of inspiration Kerith is able to craft compositions that evoke some of the qualities of hand-made everyday items such as quilts, but at the same time, are highly conceptual.
Kerith finds there is additional creativity to be found in working with limited, discarded materials as she describes: “There is an ever-present challenge to creatively solve how to puzzle together the pieces that comes from working with a material that is in relative short supply and varying size. It becomes a conversation between the pieces themselves that I am just facilitating. The process is always inviting in the sense that it offers such freedom from expectation with respect to the end result.”
Kerith Lisi’s work has been exhibited at Marin MOCA, The Main Gallery in Redwood City, STUDIO Gallery in San Francisco and SLATE contemporary in Oakland. She studied at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and earned a B.A. in International Relations from UC Davis, as well as completing studies abroad at the University of Pisa in Italy. Kerith lives and works in San Carlos, California with her husband and two children.