Islam Aly

When I make a historical book structure, I go through a learning process. I learn the history as well as the different physical aspects of the binding such as how a book form is constructed in a specific sequence. I learn about the use of different materials such as paper, wood, leather and dyes. I learn to make choices in selecting and replacing traditional materials that I don’t have access to. I use these different experiences to enhance my work in making artists’ books and  to use historical and cultural references from these structures in the actual content. In essence, I wish to explore new ways to use the rich structures of historical books in contemporary artists’ book practice and incorporate contemporary content into strictly historical structures.

Historically, these structures used a lot of text, either calligraphy or print, and they sometimes also included illustrations, illumination, and images. I explore different ways to add alternative content to these structures while keeping their appearance and integrity. I want  to reuse these rich structures and give them a new life as artists’ books. I am using two main themes. The first is abstract, where I’ll explore texture, color, and form. The second is language; I am interested in the similarities and differences between English and Arabic languages. For example: writing, pronunciation, letterforms and typography. I am also examining pieces where these themes will intersect through the use of material. In my work I experiment with different techniques on handmade paper such as laser cutting, waxing, stitching, and paper dyeing.  My book art reproduces familiar book structures that embody the heritage of book history but contain some of the wonder that can come from contemporary book art.­­

Artist’s Statement

Islam Aly received a BA and an MA in Art Education from Helwan University, Egypt. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the College of Education’s Art Education program at the University of Iowa. In August 2013 he finished the MFA program at the University of Iowa Center for the Book. His books explore the possibilities of historical bindings in contemporary book art practice. They have appeared in international exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and in private and public collections including the NewYork Public Library, the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library at the University of Alabama, the National Library of Chile, the University of Iowa Special Collections, and Bibliotheca Alexandrina. His email address is