Books were always a big part of Jennifer Brandon’s life. When she was a child, she catalogued her many volumes and set up a check-out system for members of her family.
“Much of my childhood was spent trolling used bookstores with my mother,” the San Francisco-based artist explains.
So it seems fitting that Brandon was invited to exhibit pieces from her “Spines” series — archival inkjet prints that examine wear and decay of beloved books and in a broader sense, a life lived — in the group show “Bookish” at Adobe Books Backroom Gallery in The City.
“Every time a book is picked up, it’s physically affected by the reader,” Brandon says. “The spine bends; the pages tear, fold and are stained. The book as an object becomes a record of the physical relationship with the reader.
“I began photographing them to record that physical wear and highlight that relationship. The sterile background and isolated edges of the book concentrate the viewer’s attention, and the only narrative that is alluded to is that relationship as it plays out on the surface of the object.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature in the mid-1990s, Brandon became disenchanted with her desk job, so she returned to school and earned master’s degrees in painting and photography.
In her first projects, she says, “I painted from my own family snapshots and included excerpts from my personal memoirs to call attention to the chasm between the photograph as an object and a lived experience.”
Brandon continues to examine the delicacy of objects and how their fragility is emblematic of our own.
In the series “Falling Apart,” Brandon’s book spines are nearly unrecognizable. Their splintered textures, caked together with crumbling glue, enable the viewer to see books’ organic nature and also their transience as objects encapsulating ideas and even memories.
In another series of photographs, titled “Mending,” Brandon reveals the beauty and power of tiny pins and cushions, which, viewed closely, take on an otherworldly quality. Yet their promise of repair and renewed stability also are comforting.</p>
“I always have been drawn to and surrounded by decayed and fragile objects — be it at the small flea market my uncle ran or my family’s cabin, built by my great-grandfather,” she says. “Not only do we repair the things around us, but we do this with ourselves, too. It’s such a nice metaphor for a life experience that includes both emotional and physical growth, disrepair and repair.”
Where: Adobe Books, 3166 16th St., San Francisco
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; closes Oct. 25
Contact: (415) 864-3936, adobebooksbackroomgallery.blogspot.com