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Containing the Muse Artists' Books as Expression & Form

Curated by Janie Kreines, Curator of Academic Affairs & Community Engagement at the Phillips Museum of Art; Christopher Raab, Associate Librarian, Archives & Special Collections; and Anna Boutin-Cooper, Research & Visual Arts Librarian at Franklin & Marshall College.

Exhibition and programming developed in partnership with the Franklin & Marshall College Library.

Containing the Muse features 15 works from the Archives and Special Collections which organizes, preserves, and promotes the digital and special collections of the Franklin & Marshall College Library.

Artists’ books are a form of creative expression, providing an opportunity for political, environmental, social, and personal communication.They range in size, shape, material, and formats; altering the way people can manipulate and interpret them. Depending on the angle, page, and layout the material can be viewed from multiple perspectives, providing new experiences with each interaction.

Artists’ books are accessible to all levels of artists and audiences, appealing to different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, and areas of interest. Although there is much disagreement in the field over the exact origin of artists’ books, their impetus for being is clear: individual, conscious engagement with the book form.

Many credit the artist Ed Ruscha with the first modern artists’ book, called Twentysix Gasoline Stations. However, artists' books have a much more fluid and spontaneous history than Ruscha's work alone, including the work of Russian Futurists, French Lettrist, and Concrete poets, to name a few.

According to artists' book scholar Johanna Drucker, one thing that this genre has in common, is that they all have “some conviction, some soul, some reason to be and to be a book in order to succeed" (Drucker, 10–11). We hope that you find your own vision of the soul and reason for being in the artists' books comprising Containing the Muse.

Julie Chen. Full Circle, 2006, ed. of 100. Letterpress, photopolymer plates, various papers, and silk. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .C44 F85 2006.

Full Circle consists of a large box-mounted wheel, which continuously rotates beneath a series of windows to reveal the many stages of faith and belief cycles, paired with letterpress images of the human body.

Some windows within the wheel open to reveal secret compartments containing pop-up diagrams. This inventive and imaginative artwork plays with form and structure in ways that only artists’ books can, placing a physicality on such a human journey as that of faith and belief.

Chen established herself as an author of limited edition artists’ books while also starting Flying Fish Press in 1987. She has a degree in book arts from Mills College. She was an adjunct and associate professor in the Mills College program and also taught at the California College of the Arts.

CUBA. Slaughter of the Trees, 2012. Acrylic paint markers, binder’s board, and binder’s cloth. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4.C83 S6 2012.

This codex bound compilation of unique, acrylic marker drawings are interspersed with poetry by Marshall Weber. Clarence Robbs, better known as CUBA, is the primary founder of the 1980–90s “Wildstyle” graffiti movement. Primarily tagging and painting murals with the name CUBA (or KUBA), he has also tagged and painted under the aliases Imagine, Salsa, Work, and Utopia.

CUBA’s interest and involvement in the book form stands out as innovative and unique among modern graffiti artists. CUBA's hand-painted books are a favorite among F&M students, exposing his readers to a vibrant dose of urban culture and imaginative letterforms.

Colette Fu. Miao Fish-Catching Contest, 2018, ed. of 50. Cardstock, indigo wax resist fabric, binder’s board, bone clasp, and acid-free adhesives. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .F8 M53 2018.

The Miao people revere the spirits of the natural world, depicting them frequently in their embroidery. Stories embroidered on Miao clothing are believed to protect the wearer, with fish specifically symbolizing the wish for many sons and good fortune.

They have annual fish catching competitions where the more fish one catches, the more luck that individual will have for the year. Fu’s book depicts one of these fish-catching contests in China by combining elaborate cut paper and photographs taken at the contest.

Fu has an MFA in fine art photography from Rochester Institute of Technology and received a Fulbright Research Fellowship to China.

Fu says of her work, “Pop-up and flap books originally illustrated ideas about astronomy, fortune telling, navigation, anatomy of the body, and other scientific principles. This history prompted me to construct my own books reflecting ideas on how ourselves related to society today.”

FlyFuture Farmacuticals Box Set, 2018, ed. of 10. Pill bottles, inkjet prints, adhesive labels, and cardboard box. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .F628 F88 2018.

Offering a unique approach to artists’ books, Future Farmacuticals presents the reader with a humorous set of prescriptions for dealing with modern life. It is made up of a box set of four upcycled pill bottles, housed in a paper bag and custom mailing box, each containing a cartoon mini-Zine medication with dosage instructions.

The set also underscores the imaginative and readily accessible nature of some artists’ book materials. Fly is an iconoclastic figure of the NYC Lower East Side art scene, and an international political activist.

Ellen Knudson. Ingress/Egress, 2015, ed. of 50. Japanese mulberry paper and photopolymer plates. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .K58 I54 2015.

Knudson describes Ingress/Egress as “an artists’ book that contemplates the design of artists’ books.” Consisting of six french-fold structures, each piece meditates on a different purpose of books, inviting the viewer to engage with their own thoughts of what constitutes a book. Knudson’s artwork suggests that books can be many things including architecture, collections, environments, maps, plans, and processes.

Currently the owner of Crooked Letter Press, Knudson has been a graphic designer for over 20 years and a book artist for 17 years. She obtained an associate degree in book arts from the University of Florida and an MFA in book arts from The University of Alabama.

Stephen Dupont and Marshall Weber. Kill Them All, Dark Illuminations series, 2017, ed. of 12. Photographs, ink rubbing, collage, binder’s board, and digital printing. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .D876 K55 2017.

The photographs in this provocative accordion fold book were taken in Afghanistan from 1993 to 2012 by Australian photojournalist Stephen Dupont. The ink painting, book design, and poetry were created by friend and collaborator Marshall Weber.

The poem offers an emotional perspective on those who benefit from the ongoing wars in developing nations. Dupont chose approximately 300 photos from his massive archive and gave them to Weber to arrange and illustrate. Weber meticulously brushed Sumi and other inks onto the pages of the book, merging imagery and text to create an intimate, narrative frieze.

Dupont is a photographer, artist, and documentary filmmaker. He works in war torn regions around the world documenting fragile cultures and marginalized peoples.

Weber has an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute and creates art in a variety of media. He is the co-founder and curator of Booklyn in Brooklyn, New York, a nonprofit that advocates for artists and cultural organizations that work outside of the conventional academic and commercial artworld.

Dupont and Weber have been collaborating on exhibitions, workshops, and artists’ books for over a decade.

Candace Hicks. Common Threads, Volume XLVII, 2013. Cloth and embroidery thread. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .H53 C66 2013.

Copying the form and design of the ubiquitous “composition” notebook using cloth and thread, Hick’s Common Threads, Volume XLVII features hand-embroidered text that meditates on various items of popular culture that the artist consumed.

One of a series of 50 works, all with unique embroidered covers and content, Common Threads speaks to the ways in which stories, “can reveal more about our beliefs and biases.”

Hicks is represented by Booklyn. She has an MFA in printmaking from Texas Christian University and is currently an associate professor at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Sublavarte Colectivo. Sublavarte Colectivo 2012-NY-MX, 2012, ed. of 18. Digital printing, embroidery, inkjet printing, silkscreen, collage, and corrugated fiberboard. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.35.M6 S83 2012.

Sublevarte Colectivo’s 2012-NY-MX is a 23 page book of art, compiled by a group of nine artists including Irina Arellano-Weiss, Luis Ramón Campos-García, Joel Martínez Huerta, Veronica Medina Juárez, Lourdes Alettia Molina Rivera, Gandhi Noyola Velázuquez, Marco Antonio Rodriguez Gutiérrez, Mariana Sasso Rojas, and Andree Lilian Guigue Pérez. The work was catalyzed by a 2012 Sublevarte residency and exhibition at the Interference Archive in Brooklyn.

Sublevarte Colectivo believes that the graphic arts should be a tool for both communication and social change and, that at this point in modern history, the global power of visual information is stronger than that of text. This vision has powered their work with the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the flower sellers of Atenco, teachers on strike in Oaxaca, and dozens of other social struggles in Mexico. This is a powerful example of collective and political action, presented in book form.

Amee Pollack ‘90 and Laurie Spitz. The Inheritance: A New Kind of Women’s History Book, 2011, ed. of 15. Japanese silk book cloth, digital prints, acid-free paper, and adhesives. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .S65 I5 2011.

Created by F&M alumna Amee Pollack ‘90 and co-creator Laurie Spitz, The Inheritance is created from photographs of the artists’ original three-dimensional constructions built with book board and book cloth. Full of moveable elements, like flaps and pop-ups, the book comments on women’s changing roles throughout time.

Pollack has a BA in art history and studio art from Franklin & Marshall College, an MFA in book arts and printmaking from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and an advanced graduate certificate in art education and design from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

Pollack and Spitz have been collaborating for over 7 years on a variety of projects.

Brian D. Tripp. All My Life, 2018. Acrylics, binder’s board, and binder’s cloth. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4.T75 A45 2018.

This codex bound compilation of unique drawings and poems was created by Brian D. Tripp, an artist, poet, and 2019 recipient of the California Living Heritage Award from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts.

Tripp uses his artwork to promote and celebrate the legacy of his Northern California Karuk Tribal community. Tripp’s artists books and drawings pay reverence to the legendary “ledger drawings” made by Native Americans displaced from their tribal lands and moved to camps in the Southeast. Given surplus accounting ledger books, these artists kept distant images alive by drawing their past lives and native lands.

Tripp’s art provides a new perspective on imagery familiar to the Native American tradition: motifs from basket work, arrowheads, ceremonial objects, and Karuk regalia. These symbols were passed down for generations and reinvigorated by Tripp’s use of vibrant color and geometric iconography.

Ronald King. Turn Over Darling, 1990, Unlimited numbered ed. Khadi pure rag paper. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .K48 T87 1990.

Designed in wire and embossed on Khadi pure rag paper, this delightful and lighthearted book is composed of six blind embossed wire impressions. When the images are folded and juxtaposed in sequence, eleven reclining nudes emerge from the pages.

Due to the simple but clever design, the nudes change position from front to back, “turning over” as the reader moves through the book. Ronald King’s late-twentieth-century work is often cited by scholars for its exemplary approaches to page space and continuity.

King was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, went to college in England, and emigrated to Canada in 1956, but returned to England and opened a business, Circle Press, in 1969. The company has produced over 200 publications including limited edition artists’ books, posters, and prints. King is considered one of the modern day masters of artists’ books.

Sofia Szamosi. Social Me, 2018, ed. of 50. Digital printing, binder’s board, and acrylic. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4.S93 S67 2018.

Social Me, a box set of digitally printed pamphlets housed in a unique, hand painted box, documents the artist’s various attempts to understand her complicated relationship with social media and the hidden forces that drive it.

Featuring illustrated reinterpretations of Instagram posts, the collection explores the many ways of being and performing the idea of “girl” within the context of social media, how those performances are encouraged and propagated, and how they may be limiting or empowering.

Szamosi was born in San Francisco, California but was raised in New York City, her current home. She has a BA from NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

(back) Kelie Bowman. In Its Depths, 2014. Hand painting, silkscreens, thread, and paper. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .B69 I5 2014.

This unique artists’ book has an accordion book binding with an innovative structure that constantly shifts and changes as one “reads” it. Triangles of paper, screen printed with abstract washes of color, are sewn together to create bendable, moveable structures that change with each page.

Bowman is a painter, muralist, printmaker, and book artist. She has a BFA from the University of Florida. She is the co-founder and director of Cinders Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, a project oriented, non-profit art organization.

(front) Matthew Chaw ‘21. The American Reality, 2017. American flag, laser printing, and permanent marker. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4.C43 A44 2017.

This triangular accordion fold “flag” book, by F&M student Matthew Chaw ‘21, explores the growing discord between American ideals and realities, visually highlighting the country’s deviation from its founding principles of respect and unity to those of disharmony and racism.

As the reader proceeds to unfold the flag, Chaw pairs idealistic American phrases with images of what he believes to be the true (or current) form of these remarks.

When closing the book, the reader is forced to fold the flag in an act of reverence, symbolizing our sacred respect for the national flag and our hope for the future of American society.

Shu-Ju Wang and Emily Pittman Newberry. Water, 2014, ed. of 40. Letterpress, hand-painted watercolors, Rives heavyweight, and Nepal heavyweight papers. Special Collections Rare Materials, N7433.4 .W354 W38 2014.

A snake book structure with hand-cut hexagonal pages, Water is the result of a collaboration between book artist Shu-Ju Wang and poet and transgender activist Emily Newberry. Wang painted each page using watercolors and designed the book so it forms a whirlpool of sorts when completely opened.

Newberry’s poem speaks to the nuance of navigating through our complex world, through the imagery and transitive properties of water. As rain turns to snow, ice into liquid water, so do we move throughout our various environments, contouring ourselves to fit within them.

Wang immigrated to the United States from Taiwan when she was fifteen years old. Her work is influenced by traditional Chinese Gongbi-style paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and Islamic miniatures. Her work, with its jewel-like colors, reflects her personal history of migration as well as her background in technology, science, and art.

Newberry worked as a machinist for 30 years, but now focuses on her work as a mediator and facilitator. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Dickinson College, a graduate certificate in conflict resolution from John F. Kennedy University, and is a graduate of Authentic Happiness Coaching. Her poem, “Signs,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2014.

Thank you! We hope you enjoyed this exhibition!

Have questions? Want to learn more about the Artists' Book collection at Franklin & Marshall College? Please contact, Anna Boutin-Cooper, Research and Visual Arts Librarian at 717-358-3896 or anna.boutin-cooper@fandm.edu.

Photography by Deb Grove, F&M Staff Photographer; Raluca Rilla '23, student photography assistant; Gina Erdyneeva '20, Museum Social Media Aide; and Melanie Vera. Design by Janie Kreines, Curator of Academic Affairs & Community Engagement, and Lexi Breinich '13, Art Museum Assistant.

Works Cited: Drucker, Johanna.The Century of Artists' Books. Granary Books, 1994.