Cedar Falls, IA: Islam Aly, 2017. Hardcover. 1 of 40 copies. Signed, numbered, and dated by the artist.
"'Fantastic Fauna' is a bilingual book in English and Arabic, based on the tradition of having animal characteristics as caricatures of humans. The book was inspired from Ibn Al Mqufas's 'Kalila and Dimna' a ninth-century collection of animal fables which came to Persia from India, similar to George Orwell's political allegory 'Animal Farm', the stories are about people and politics. The animal characters were used to represent social inequality and oppression.
'Fantastic Fauna' shows animal images from medieval Islamic artwork that depict imaginary and real animals. The book offers the reader with a different reality where the words describing the animals are not in the main book but inside the miniature books. The reader will be intrigued to find differences and connections between images and words, animal and human characters. The book ends with the George Orwell quote "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" (artist's website).
Hand-sewn coptic binding in wooden boards with leather wrappings connected to five miniature books. The books all feature laser-engraved animals on the boards. The main book has the laser-engraved title in English and Arabic on the front board. The illustrations and text are lasercut on Johannot paper in all of the books. All text is in English and Arabic. Size: Main book is 8 x 5 x 1.75 inches with 5 miniature books measuring 1.5 x 1.5 x .75 inches.
Islam Aly is an Egyptian-born book artist and teacher based in Iowa. His books explore the possibilities of historical bindings in contemporary book art practices They have appeared in international exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and in private and public collections including the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Library of Chile, Yale University, and Bibliotheca Alexandrina. In an artist's statement he writes: "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." ARTB/110521. Fine.