Julie Chen, “Chrysalis”

View of the box with the book object housed within.

Chrysalis by Flying Fish Press
The book object is in the shape of a faceted oloid that is held closed with magnets. A panel at the bottom of the box can be slid out to reveal additional content.

The faceted planes of the book object can be opened by the reader to reveal contents on the inner surface as well as in a book with circular pages that is housed within.

Chrysalis by Flying Fish Press
When fully opened, the book object lies in a flat plane. The dark blue book, held in place with magnets, can be removed and read.

Chrysalis by Flying Fish Press
This page detail shows a sampling of the text and image within the book.


Julie Chen (Berkeley, CA)

Letterpress from photopolymer plates
Edition of 50
Book object: 11.5″ x 18″ X 3″
Box size: 6 3/4″ x 11 3/4″ x 6 5/8″

My approach to artists’ books combines personal narratives with book forms of various kinds. My work presents the reader/viewer with intricate three-­dimensional objects that offer intimate reading experiences. The idea of giving order to personal experience through the use of mapping, charting, and numbering continues to be an important underlying theme that runs through much of my work. Enclosures such as boxes, along with the corresponding concept of creating a world within a world, also play a major role in my work. I use the crafts of letterpress printing and hand bookbinding, combined with more modern technologies such as photopolymer plates and laser cutting, to create work that is designed digitally but produced with an intense attention to the materiality of the resulting piece. For me, the physical object itself is of equal importance to the visual and textual ideas expressed within the pages in conveying meaning and presenting the reader/viewer with a compelling experience. This experience begins with the reader’s/viewer’s initial perception of the container for a piece, and then continues on through both the eye, through the process of reading/viewing, and the hand, through the manipulation of the piece’s structure and materials. I have become increasingly interested in exploring the time-­based aspects inherent in the book form. The fact that the full content of a piece can only be revealed over time with the turning of the page, or an equivalent action, on the part of the reader/viewer, is an enduring fascination for me, and is, I believe, one of the book form’s most singular features.

Chrysalis is an interpretation of the complex and transformative nature of the process of grief. Text and image within the piece refer to changes in the brain that result from a traumatic experience of loss and how these changes affect a person’s perception of the world around them. The piece consists of a sculptural book object housed in a box. The book object is held together by a series of magnets and can be opened by the viewer until all the panels lie in a flat plane. Opening the book object reveals an inner book with circular pages that can be held in the hand and read. The shape of the book object is based on an oloid, a geometric shape that was discovered by sculptor and mathematician Paul Schatz in 1929. An oloid is defined by the space created by two linked circles that intersect on perpendicular planes.