Paper and Play: An Open House for Artists’ Books
On October 19th, the Ohio University Libraries are hosting an interactive artists’ books open house with items from Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections and Frederick and Kazuko Harris Fine Arts Library. The open house will take place in the fourth floor lobby of Alden Library from 3:00-6:00 pm.
An artist’s book is a medium that uses the structure or function of a book as inspiration to share, inform, or experience certain narratives, emotions, and ideas with the viewer. Some are unique creations, some are limited editions, and many are self-published. Many artists use the book to create narratives that address difficult issues and express emotions that cannot be conveyed as clearly with other mediums like sculpture and painting. Some books illustrate the words of others, while some do not use words at all. Some of them are narrative, some educational, and some a subjective experience for the viewer, but all the books require active participation from the beholder to fully comprehend their contents. These artists have created books that challenge the traditional form of bookmaking, blurring the lines between book and art through composition and materials that tactilely engage the reader and encourage play.
The open house event in October will feature about 30 artist-made books from the Libraries’ collections. Ranging from pop-ups to accordion folds, to sandwiches, this eclectic collection of books encourages the reader to touch, interact, pick up and play with the pages to find hidden narratives. Library staff will be monitoring the event attentively, so if a visitor is unsure how to interact with a book or has questions, simply ask a librarian on standby.
The goal of this event is to give students, faculty, and library patrons a glimpse of some of the many unique and compelling items housed in Alden Library’s collections. It is also our goal to inspire student artists and authors to engage with unconventional storytelling and perhaps utilize it within their work by featuring several artist books made here at Ohio University. All student-made books displayed were created for the Letterpress and Bookmaking class taught at the School of Art + Design. We hope that attendees will feel encouraged to engage with Alden’s many diverse and distinctive collections. If attendees see something that interests them and would like to explore more in their own time, simply fill out a research request for the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.
Below is a sneak peek of some of the artists’ books to be included in the open house.
Many Mini Murder Scenes by Candace Hicks, 2018, Published by Booklyn. Wooden cover, coptic stitch binding, laser print, and black light revealing ink. 16 pages. Edition of 35. 9 x 3 1/2 in. This is a companion book for the exhibition “Many Mini Murder Scenes” and has 3D images that come to life when the accompanying glasses are worn. Use the black light included to reveal hidden messages. Here the artist reproduces scenes from crime fiction as the viewer plays detective. But rather than solve the crime, this book makes the reader critically assess the morality of the American obsession with murder mysteries.
Sideshow by Rigel Stuhmiller, 2011, Vandercook Proof Press. Letterpress printed, 3 color, tipfolio accordion binding with wrap-around cover, 11 double-sided pages. Edition of 100. 4 x 4 in. This is a three-color letterpress printed 2-sided accordion fold book that follows the rise and fall of a fictional circus. On one side of the page, the viewer finds bright poster-like images of the spectacle of the circus taking the position of the audience. On the other side of the page are each performers’ background story provided through notes, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera.
Boundless by David Stairs, 2013. Paperback, spiral bound, offset printed, black and white. Unpaginated. 8 cm in diameter. A small round book that is completely bound around all edges so the viewer physically cannot read or see what is inside. The humorous title plays on the nature of the book itself and the irony present in its existence.
Dueling Dictionary by John M. Carrera, 2015, Quercus Press. Paperback, spiral bound, letterpress printed, black and white. 84 pages. 19.5 x 8 cm. This book is inspired by the two competing 19th-century dictionary companies G. & C. Merriam and Worcester who tried to outdo one another with illustrations, though ironically enough both companies shared the same engraver. As the reader flips through the two sets of pages on both sides, the words across the top and bottom of the page change meaning with each pairing.