limited edition. In a University environment this theme is clearly on the mind of students, many who are at a stage in their lives when they must determine who they are and how they relate to the world at large. These books never fail to engage students.
Memory and dreams are subjects common to many artists’ books and, again, has been an area of collecting here that has long been established. As part of these themes, autobiography and self portraiture have been a focus. Many of the works selected for the exhibition and illustrated in this book can be viewed with these themes in mind.
Visual language, symbolic text, reinterpreting found objects and altered books all have found a home in the Book Arts Collection. I refuse to define the word “book” or the term “artists’ books” for anyone; I believe that it is artists themselves who are continually redefining these concepts. Many pieces I have acquired for the Collection in the last 15 years could never have been conceived of by me – I am a curator, not an artist, and feel especially lucky to be surrounded by the works of imaginative creativity I handle every day.
Social justice and political issues are other strong themes in the Collection. Many speak to the same topics as do another area of Special Collections I curate – 19th Century American Literature. That Collection represents topics such as the Civil War and slavery, and focuses on women’s writing. Themes of family, gender issues and, again, body image are the most common. Artists’ books created in the last 10 to 15 years have taken on social issues such as environmental changes, discrimination, conflict both
personal and global, and the increasing speed of our lives.
Artists’ books ask the reader/viewer to slow down, contemplate and revisit elements common to many of our lives. They concentrate on the tactile, the book in the hand. Artists select materials consciously. They have chosen the book form with intent, not simply because the book is the only form available to them. Each artist might have chosen to create a webpage or a video game or a film. They chose a book.
These books are not meant by the artists to be seen only in
an exhibition or as reproductions in a book. Both the exhibition and this book provide an entrance point into accessing the books themselves. Exhibitions are often how people learn what is in Special Collections. All the books shown and discussed here are available for perusal after the exhibition with prior arrangement. Please come and experience these wonderful objects yourself.
Book Arts & Rare Book Curator