Book artist turns life experiences into tangible pieces

The first time Alice Vinson created a book, she was looking for a different way to display her photographs for a college course.

Alice Vinson

“I was having trouble with the traditional method of hanging photos in a line,” Vinson said. “My work had a very narrative format, and book making became a more fitting way to display my photographs.”

Vinson will share her skills as a book and multimedia artist with the Victoria community Saturday as part of the University of Houston-Victoria Downtown Arts Series. The event will begin at 7 p.m. in the UHV Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St. A question-and-answer session will follow. It is free and open to the public.

“The poet Ezra Pound said that a book should ‘be a ball of light in one’s hands,’” said Charles Alexander, UHV poet and designer in residence, and co-curator of the series. “In Alice Vinson’s creations of definition-blowing artist’s books, the book may literally be that light. And her installations seem to me to be the book writ large, with no limit on how it might impact our perceptions. Vinson is an artist we need, one who illuminates our thinking.”

Charles Alexander

When Vinson creates her art and books, she draws from everyday experiences. Her photography project, “Likeness of Disposition,” was spawned from her frustration at not having time for art while she was teaching.

To solve that problem, she decided to take one photo a day for a year using Polaroid cameras. The pictures were spur-of-the-moment shots taken as quickly as possible. While the photos were developing, Vinson wrote information about where and when the photo was taken, what she was feeling at the time, the weather conditions and any malfunctions or problems she might have had in the process. She also posted the photos daily on Facebook so others could share their impressions of the images.

“That approach fit perfectly into my teaching schedule and gave me the outlet I needed,” she said. “At the end of the year, I had this huge piece I was able to assemble into a book as well as a wall display.”

Another piece that came from her life’s experiences is her book “Less Than.” The book’s cover is a spiky, rough construction of wires with windows on the front and back. When she created the cover, she didn’t have a specific goal for how to fill the book. However, she realized the cover was perfect for some material she put together when she was homeless living in a warehouse in Montana.

"Less Than"

Another piece, “Soft,” evolved out of troubles she and a friend had with language. The book, which more closely resembles a felt ball with tags inside, was inspired by a conversation between Vinson and her Korean friend who had trouble thinking of the right word when speaking English. Vinson experienced the same problem when she would sit down to write, so she created a book that reflected that struggle.

“‘Soft’ is full of different words for soft,” Vinson said. “It’s a visual representation of the tangled mess we have to sort through to find the right word whenever we write or speak.”

When she comes to Victoria, Vinson hopes to inspire audience members and encourage them to create in their own ways.

“I like to share my work, and I want to trigger something creative in someone else,” she said. “The thing I love about art is how it can communicate something to each person, and everyone can relate to it on a personal level.”

For more information about the event or series, contact Alexander at 361-703-5147 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.