Kimball Art Center’s exhibit will include a book club discussion about Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction work ‘Dawn’
Virtual event set for April 29
Kimball Art Center Exhibit Curator Nancy Stoaks believes books can enhance the public’s appreciation for visual art, and she is looking forward to continuing the monthly book club discussion the nonprofit started back in 2019.
“All of our exhibitions deal with such interesting ideas and themes,” Stoaks said. “I thought it would be wonderful to add a literary component and find books that, in some ways, tie into the artwork on display and find conversations that weave in between the two. It’s another way for people to enter into the ideas the art is centered around, and add another layer for people to think about the art.”
This month’s discussion will center around Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning author Octavia E. Butler’s 1987 novel, “Dawn” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 29. The book is a Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel nominee.
The free event, which will be held on Zoom and is made possible by funding from Utah Humanities, was inspired by the art center’s current exhibit, “When Evening Has Passed and Tomorrow Comes.”
Registration is open now by visiting kimballartcenter.org/events-intro/events. All registrants will receive the Zoom link.
“Dawn” is about a woman, Lilith lyapo, who finds herself in a dilemma after waking from a centuries-long sleep instigated by a seemingly benevolent alien race that, in turn, asks her to lead them back to Earth.
“I want people to know that they can join the conversation even if they haven’t finished the book, or even read it,” Stoaks said. “People can come and learn more about the book, the author and the exhibit.”
Stoaks selected “Dawn” in part because of the exhibit’s theme.
“The four artists in the exhibition build alternate worlds, while thinking about the future and, in many cases, were influenced by science fiction,” she said. “All of the artists are also women of color, and I wanted to highlight the voices of women of color who are writing science fiction. I thought that was a really nice link to the perspectives in the exhibition.”
One of the artists, Saya Woolfak, was directly inspired by Butler’s writings.
“Octavia Butler’s fantastical and psychologically complicated myths fueled my desire to tell a story,” Woolfak said in a statement. “As a visual artist, I knew it would not only be told through words but through a physicalization of objects, places, and by building new realities.”
In addition to inspiring Woolfak’s art, the late Butler’s writings are relevant now, Stoaks said.
“(Octavia’s) Afrofuturistic and feminist lens adds a perspective that is so important in the genre of science fiction, giving her readers new questions to think about when exploring her alternate worlds,” she said. “Her books are being read in book clubs across the country, and multiple adaptations of her books have appeared or will be appearing on the stage and on the screen.”
The April 28 discussion will be led by Dr. Elizabeth Callaway, an assistant professor in the University of Utah’s department of English.
Callaway’s research includes environmental and digital humanities, as well as new media studies, and her book, “Eden’s Endemics: Narratives of Biodiversity on Earth and Beyond,” pays particular attention to the narratives, genres and tropes that are drawn upon in representations of biodiversity, according to Stoaks.
In addition, Callaway, who earned her undergraduate degree in English literature and biological sciences at Stanford University, collaborates with digital humanists, biologists and social scientists who focus on climate change.
“I thought it would be great to bring in the wonderful scholars we have in our community who know so much about the issues that are addressed in these novels,” Stoaks said. “It’s impossible to think about our future without thinking about what our relationship with nature will be, and Lizzy has an incredible background in speculative fiction and environmental humanities.
Her specialty of thinking about biodiversity, climate and environmental scenarios in the realm of fiction, will bring a strong component to the conversations.”
The next book discussion will be held on May 20 and will cover “The Fifth Season” by M.K. Jemisin, Stoaks said.
The discussion will also be held virtually, but Stoaks hopes the book club will start to meet in person in the months that follow.
“With these two discussions, we wanted to remain prudent at this time to keep everyone safe,” she said.
When: 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 29
Registration and Zoom link: kimballartcenter.org/events-intro/events
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