Water Paper Stone

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Judy O’Shea recently published a memoir about the 17 years she and her husband, Mike, lived at La Pilande Basse, an eighteenth-century water mill in southwest France. They restored the mill to produce flour and walnut oil and house studios for an artist-in-residence program.

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The one-of-a-kind installation at San Francisco Center for the Book is a walk-through artists’ book vision of the experiences in the memoir. 18 other artists that spent time at the mill contributed pages to the book.

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I went to the exhibit at the opening, which, in some ways, was not ideal (I’m not a big fan of crowds) but I was in the City, and the way time goes I might not get another chance before the exhibit ends. Anyway, I didn’t get to look at everything as closely or as uninterruptedly as I might have liked, but it was very cool to see how people interacted with the pieces.

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It’s very grand scale, some of the elements reaching from the ceiling. That definitely gets your attention, and also draws you in and engages you, and many of the pages have intriguing detail at a regular book scale as well. There were several that had layers which gave an interaction with the surroundings that I particularly enjoyed.

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The exhibit is also a great commemoration and celebration of the place and the experiences there. Although I’ve never been, it evoked the spirit and gave a real sense of the mill, both the physical site and of the community there.

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