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5 Fast Facts: Elisabetta Gut

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
A brown, tropical fruit with a large segment of skin removed to reveal small, round pages of sheet music inside instead of fruit flesh. The book rests on a square woodblock with “libra—seme” printed in the bottom-right corner.

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Elisabetta Gut (b.1934), whose work is currently on view in NMWA’s galleries.

1. Who Knew?

Gut began her artistic career as a painter, but in the 1960s, she started to search for a new form of expression. Inspired by avant-garde artists’ use of experimental materials, she created her first book-object in 1964.

A brown, tropical fruit with a large segment of skin removed to reveal small, round pages of sheet music inside instead of fruit flesh. The book rests on a square woodblock with “libra—seme” printed in the bottom-right corner.
Elisabetta Gut, Libro-Seme (Seed-Book), 1983; Tropical fruit and pages of musical notes on Japanese paper, 3 1/4 x 3 1/2 x 3 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the artist; © Elisabetta Gut; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

2. Lost & Found

Whether trapping a French-Italian dictionary in a cage or “growing” music from a seed, Gut often incorporates found objects in her work. Each object’s unique history is incorporated into a new context.

3. What’s in a Name?

Though Gut’s artist books encourage close looking rather than traditional reading, words still play a role. Her titles provide insight into the inspiration, materials, or thoughts behind a work.

A three-dimensional collage explodes into space with cut-out shapes of black, red, white and blue. Concentrated in the center, the piece dissipates towards the edges, with a bird's head peeking out of the morass towards the top. The canvas floats within a larger, white frame.
Elisabetta Gut, L’Ucello di fuoco (Da Stravinsky), 1985; Paper cut-out and collage, 14 x 17 x 5 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of H.G. Spencer in honor of Lorraine Grace; © Elisabetta Gut

4. Art Begets Art

Gut’s work frequently draws inspiration from her favorite works of art, music, or poetry. The Firebird, for example, visually interprets music from Igor Stravinsky’s famous ballet.

5. Book as Art

Artists’ books blur the lines between visual art and literary art. Works by Elisabetta Gut are currently on view in both the exhibition Super Natural and the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center. See if you can find both works during your next visit!

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