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BOOK_ARTS-L  March 2016

BOOK_ARTS-L March 2016

Subject:

The Passing of Norma B. Rubovits

From:

Bill Drendel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Book_Arts-L <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 19 Mar 2016 18:16:04 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (75 lines)

The passing of Norma B. Rubovits

The book arts community lost a good friend this week Wednesday, when Norma
B. Rubovits died at the age of 97. She was a pioneering paper marbler,
imaginative bookbinder, major collector and donor. For decades from the
1960s well into the current century, she had a role to play in Chicago book
arts and at the Newberry Library. The Newberry hosted a retrospective
exhibition of her work in 2010 that celebrated her international renown.

Norma's story is one of determined craft, original thinking, and careful
collecting, but it started almost by chance. One day in 1964, Norma's
husband Frank asked her if she wanted to take a binding class with him. He
had inherited a collection of deteriorating books from his grandfather’s
library. Norma said "Why not?" and off they went - to study with Elizabeth
Kner, a well- known Hungarian émigré binder with a studio in the Printer's
Row area of Chicago. Although Norma became an accomplished binder, her
attention soon turned to marbled papers. She taught herself to make marbled
paper, by referring to old manuals and sample books at the Newberry, and
also by seeking out and getting to know others interested in the art. Her
papers were accomplished enough that Jim Wells bought some for use in the
Newberry Library bindery, and other customers lined up too. But Norma was
not content to produce sheet after sheet of beautiful but predictable
papers. She started experimenting with smaller marbles that took up only
part of a sheet and eventually came to place these compositions toward the
center, using the sheet as a sort of frame. She first referred to these as
marbled "doodles" and later "mono-prints," but finally settled on
"vignettes." The marbling world had never seen anything like them, and they
caused a stir. The Chicago Public Library included her prominently in an
exhibit in 1969. She got invitations to exhibit her papers and bindings in
group shows locally, nationally, and internationally. She visited Turkey,
then as now a center of the marbling world, and corresponded with marblers
everywhere. Her international reputation was further solidified in 1992
when Dawson's Bookshop in Los Angeles issued Marbled Vignettes, a limited
edition of original miniature marbles along with an accompanying interview
in which Norma described her methods and aesthetic.

From the start, Norma Rubovits collected everything she could find on the
art of marbling, including copies of the rare manuals she had seen at the
Newberry and hundreds of other works about paper, binding, and related book
arts. She built a huge collection of papers made by others, largely by
purchasing or trading some of her sheets for some of theirs. She often told
the story of how shocked and pleased she was when Newberry’s curator, James
Wells expressed interest in keeping her papers as part of the John. M. Wing
Foundation. But Wells retired soon after and he referred her to "the new
guy," Paul Gehl. Norma's major gifts to the Newberry began in 1991 and
continued for over a decade. As recently as last year she was adding
individual papers and books. The collection is always growing in other ways
too. Marblers and authors on paper continue to send their work to the
Newberry in Norma's honor. Norma also endowed a book fund at the Newberry
for the purchase of books on binding and decorated papers. The collection
now numbers more than 4000 marbled pieces and more than 170 books,
including many of Norma's own bindings.

Many will mourn Norma as artist and friend. Born Norma Bloch on August 26,
1918 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma and
came to Chicago to work at the University of Chicago hospitals as a
dietitian.  It was during this time she met Dr. Frank E. Rubovits, an
obstetrician-gynecologist from an established Chicago family. They raised
two daughters: Paula, an artist and model, and Randi, a psychiatrist. Frank
died in 1987, Paula in 1988. Norma died March 16, 2016. Randi
Rubovits-Seitz is the sole immediate survivor. A memorial is being planned.

                                    
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