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Installation view of butterfly books

Tori Tasch: Artist in residence at Schoofs Preserve

March 2, 2020  |  Topics: featured artist

The Natural Realm presents Tori Tasch, who is one of 12 artists participating in a year-long residency program called ARTservancy, a collaboration between Gallery 224 in Port Washington and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. The mission of ARTservancy is to promote the visionary work of both the artists and conservationists. Each artist has selected a preserve to spend time in and to engage with.

Artist in residence Tori Tasch walking in an open, snow-covered field at Schoofs Preserve
Tori Tasch at Schoofs Preserve. Photo by Eddee Daniel

Artist statement by Tori Tasch

Naturalists have made a practice of uncovering rare and unique species from their environment, and through meticulous processes they preserve and display these specimens to share with others in their field. As an artist I study the politics of collection, preservation, and exhibition as I come to understand the importance of the unique copy in our society.

"Metamorphosis," cyanotype prints
“Metamorphosis,” cyanotype prints

My twin passions for repurposing materials and using layered printmaking processes have merged in a series of unique handmade books featuring found objects and pamphlet-stitched and/or accordion-fold pages. Papers are covered with a calligraphy of screen print and transfer print processes on altered book pages, often discarded books from a school’s science department. Focusing on the small details in the environment allows me to experiment with new book forms as I contemplate evolution and climate change. The books and butterflies are symbols of transformation and the need for change and the courage to change. Change is inevitable but our survival is linked to the fate of insects; we need bugs to eat pests, to recycle nutrients, and to maintain our soils. Insects pollinate our food crops.

"Daisies for Dallas," hand-made book and vitrine
“Daisies for Dallas,” hand-made book and vitrine

Why do I make books? A book can be both read and appreciated as an object: It can be touched, held, looked at. The book is a source of knowledge and a tool used to explore and communicate ideas in a very individual way.

"Day 2," handmade seed paper, sprouted
“Day 2,” handmade seed paper, sprouted

My books are often constructed with sustainable handmade paper. Sustainable Papermaking represents where I have been. I can fully experience nature by collecting materials for natural pigments and sheetforming. I use locally sourced plant matter to create interpretations of the invasive and aggressive species in my environment. For this body of work, I use problem and invasive species to draw awareness to the devastation caused by Japanese beetles and to the aggressiveness of Engelmann ivy, buckthorn and other invasives. Weeding the garden and collecting plant fibers and insects protects native habitat. Using them in papermaking transforms them while engaging and educating viewers about biodiversity.

"Day 5," handmade seed paper sculpture, sprouted
“Day 5,” handmade seed paper sculpture, sprouted

Inspired by my residency I have started making plantable seed paper from seeds collected on site at Schoofs Preserve in order to restore native prairie habitat and propagate milkweed to assist the pollinators. I invite the viewer to connect to the living world, to foster growth and appreciation for our landscape.

Portland Arts Center

 Community engagement is a part of my process as it invites collaboration and the blending of ideas, and it provides the opportunity to bring awareness to the need to protect those species most at risk. Through exploring and supporting nature conservation and awareness about environmental issues in my work I am convinced that together we can build and support a life of harmony and respect for our planet, plant kingdom, animals and each other.

Butterfly installation, Alfons Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
Butterfly book installation, Alfons Gallery, Milwaukee, WI

My current book series is inspired by Schoofs Preserve where I am doing a one-year residency with ARTservancy. When I discovered that this charming piece of land is a Monarch Way Station it inspired me to create a butterfly per day to raise awareness to the loss of biodiversity. The natural world thrives on complexity. I hope others will be inspired to make small changes and begin their commitment by planting natives that provide nectar in their yards, minimizing pesticide use, and providing a source of water for wildlife.

Individual butterfly book
Individual butterfly book

Participating in residency programs fulfills the need to work in the studio and the desire to be involved. Residency programs are a fantastic way to finish a project, have the time and space to think about new ones, and make work in a hyper-focused amount of time. It’s also an incredible opportunity to expand your network of friends and the powerful dynamic created through attending live events can create a transformative change that lasts over time.


“Butterfly Garden”
Monument Series, handmade books and vitrines
Monument Series, handmade books and vitrines
"Heather K," handmade butterfly book
“Heather K,” handmade butterfly book
“Bigly Baboon”
"Fly by Night," folding screen
“Fly by Night,” folding screen
Installation view of suspended butterfly books at Alfons Gallery
Installation view of suspended butterfly books at Alfons Gallery
"Specimen #13," handmade butterfly book
“Specimen #13,” handmade butterfly book
"Notorious Bad Guys," handmade cockroach books at Alfons Gallery
“Notorious Bad Guys,” handmade cockroach books at Alfons Gallery

Many of the images shown here are from an exhibition of Tasch’s work that is currently on display, through March 15, at Alfons Gallery. Check the Alfons Gallery website for location and hours.


Tori Tasch with collected seed specimens.
Tori Tasch with collected seed specimens.
Photo by Eddee Daniel

Tori Tasch loves to create. Her studio processes combine hand papermaking, printmaking, and book arts techniques. Making art gives shape and meaning to her life. She has supported artists as a mentor resident at RedLine Milwaukee for 7 years and has taught at St. Bruno’s Parish School for 10 years. Currently taking a sabbatical from elementary education to focus on being the best possible independent art educator. In addition, Tasch has been a resident artist at the Lynden Sculpture Garden and Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. Tasch is currently an artist in residence at Studio 224, State Board President of Wisconsin Visual Artists (WVA) and President of Milwaukee Area Teachers of Art (MATA). Through WVA and MATA she supports the arts by engaging in efforts to present exhibitions, programs and workshops by/for artists and the community. Tasch’s sculptural books have been exhibited extensively throughout the US, as well as Japan, Mexico and Canada. Her work is included in private collections at the Brooklyn Art Library, UW-Milwaukee Special Collections, and the Saitama Art Museum in Japan. She received a BFA from Carroll College with additional studies at Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts. She lives in Merton with her husband and dog. When she isn’t teaching or printing she enjoys gardening, bike rides, reading, travel, stamp collecting, and yoga.


For more information about Schoofs Preserve, click here.

This is the latest in our series of featured artists, which is intended to showcase the work of photographers, artists, writers and other creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To see a list of previously featured artists, click here. The work of the current ARTservancy artists in residence will be exhibited at Gallery 224 in September 2020. To meet the other ARTservancy artists in residence, click here.

All images courtesy of the artist, except as noted.