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Artists’ Books: Primary Sources to Foster Creativity and Imagination

This digital teaching collection focuses on the art and form of artists' books.

Artists’ Books: Primary Sources to Foster Creativity and Imagination

Fortune teller artist's book in open box

 

 

Books have always played a role in shaping society. From the moment Gutenberg’s Bible was set to print, books have served to educate, inform, democratize and redefine. The enduring legacy of the book as a powerful vehicle for social transformation is just as significant today as it was over five hundred years ago. Artists’ books can serve as powerful catalysts for addressing social issues such as race, diversity, inclusion, sustainability and much more. They can challenge us to rethink and reframe our historical and current narratives and offer new perspectives. To read the complete essay, visit the Overview Essay tab of this guide.

How to Use this Digital Teaching Collection

There are many components of this Digital Teaching Collection for you to explore!

  1. The Gallery: Browse the gallery of images below to get a glimpse of our digital source set. Click on the image to be taken to a digital database where you'll find a larger version of the object, more details about it, and be able to download a copy to use for research.
  2. Overview Essay: Want to understand how these archival items work together? Read our overview essay to better understand the greater context of the objects and the histories that surround them. 
  3. List of Sources: Visit the list of primary sources to read descriptive text that our librarians have written. These descriptions will help you better understand the object and will jumpstart your research. Click on the image to be taken to a digital database where you'll find a larger version of the object, more details about it, and be able to download a copy to use for research.
  4. Teaching Guide: These collections have been designed with students and educators in mind. Visit our Teaching Guide to find discussion questions, activity ideas, and complete lesson plans for K-12 and undergraduate audiences. 
  5. Additional Resources: The search for primary sources does not stop with one institution! We've listed other digital collections and repositories that have archival sources relevant to this topic as well as tips for continuing your research.

The Gallery

In this rotating gallery, you'll get a glimpse of some the items from this digital teaching collection. Click on the image to be taken to a digital database where you'll find a larger version of the object, more details about it, and be able to download a copy to use for research. To see the entire set of sources, visit the List of Sources

The Gallery

Cover of artist's book

Transforming Hate: an Artist's Book, by Clarissa Sligh, 2016

Transforming Hate: an Artist's Book by Clarissa Sligh is a project that turns hateful words into a beautiful art subject. Its evolution helped the artist to fully understand the many levels of oppression and violence that form the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. It asks the viewer to question their own perceptions about history, reality, identity, and voice.

Cover of artist's book

Erase the Hate by Katie Delay, 2014

Erase the Hate by Katie Delay is an artist’s book with an Italian cloth center spread that includes a pop-up construction. It explores bullying, race/ethnicity, sexual preference, religion, and women’s issues. Each topic is addressed in its own sewn signature placed into a handmade envelope.

Image of open book with a paper doll and different outfits

But What Should I Wear?: a choose your own outfit adventure, by Megan Miller, 2017

But What Should I Wear?: a choose your own outfit adventure by Megan Miller is a spiral bound artist’s book with clear plastic covers and computer-printed images with a hand-crafted removable paper doll and nine removable hand drawn articles of clothing. The book represents the objectification women face with objectification points awarded for each outfit of clothing chosen by the reader. The author intentionally chose not to create a way to reach zero in an effort to represent how women ‘cannot win’ no matter what they wear.

Open book behind a set of hand painted watercolor tiles

Nisqually Delta Restoration Puzzle, by Lucia Harrison, 2016

Nisqually Delta Restoration Puzzle by Lucia Harrison is an artist’s book in the form of a puzzle with 32 watercolor illustrations. The artist’s book shows the restoration on the land between Olympia and DuPont. Each tile has two sides - one that shows the dikes and invasive Reed Canary Grass, and the other that shows the restoration of the salt marshes estuary.

Square cover with repetitive purple & white design.

Executive Order 9066, by Mary Jeanne Linford, 2000

Executive Order 9066 by Mary Jeanne Linford is an accordion folded artist’s book attached to boards covered with printed Japanese paper. The pockets in the accordion hold reproductions of photographs taken during the evacuation and forced relocation of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. With each photo is a small card of text that contains reports and editorials from local newspapers, as well as text by Kay Nakao and Joseph Conrad.

Seal of National Endowment for the HumanitiersThis digital teaching collection has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.  Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this digital collection do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.