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Essay: Sandra Kroupa

Under the Wings of Artemis has been a rich and rewarding experience throughout the planning, discussion, selection and installation of the exhibition and the work on this book.

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.

Sandra Kroupa
Book Arts & Rare Book Curator
Special Collections

As Book Arts Curator for 45 years at the University of Washington Libraries I have taught classes, met individually with faculty and students and consulted with working artists, always choosing examples from our collections to make a point, help with a book structure dilemma or provide insight into a social issue. Seldom have I had an opportunity to see these collections through another person’s eyes.

When Lauren Dudley proposed the idea for this exhibition, I wondered how she, with no direct knowledge of the collection’s strengths and few encounters with the broad range of our holdings, would be able to accumulate what she needed to make her selections for the exhibition. I was about to be amazed. Amazed at her enthusiasm and dedication to looking at hundreds of artists’ books, even more amazed at her ability to remember the content and structure of almost all of them and further amazed by the depth of understanding she gleaned from each piece. Through conversations it became clear to me that in addition to being a Latin scholar, a practicing artist and an adept business woman, she had the additional skill of being an astute critic of artists’ books. This book which accompanies the exhibition is proof of that skill.

I see one of my major roles in the Libraries as being a conduit between the book artist and the reader, often summing up content or explaining technique.

Most students can’t view thousands of books, so I gather from them what they hope to accomplish and then select materials I think will assist them. It has been a wonderful novelty to have someone else interpret the works for me, and from that experience I have learned quite a lot.

Many of the books I have acquired for the Collection are thematic in nature. Lauren, in organizing this exhibition, has pinpointed a precise theme in each case and linked it to the themes of the professors’ books, whether metaphorically connected, or more directly, as in the works dealing with the myth of Persephone. My own interest in Persephone began with books by Enid Mark [2000] and Lois Morrison [2001], which are in the exhibition. The complex elements of this story fascinate me and when I learned that more than half of the students in any class I teach do not know this myth, I became especially interested in acquiring work by artists using the legend in very different ways.

The concepts of body and body image – beauty, sexuality, gender issues, health, illness and death – have long been themes I have actively pursued for acquisition for the Book Arts Collection. The works run the gamut from inexpensive democratic multiples to the most beautiful one-of-a-kind or

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