New Acquisitions 2018: Artists’ Books

In 2018, Special Collections purchases a collection of approximately 300 artists’ books from Newfoundland book artist and painter Tara Bryan. Here are some examples.

Bryan, Tara. Walking on Eggs. St. John’s. Walking Bird Press, 1997.

30 x 11 x 7 cm. The work is contained in a Newfoundland brand egg carton (moulded pulp by means of a mechanized papier-mâché process). 1/1.

The inside of the lid functions as a title page and offers a minimalist introduction to the work in the form of a definition of the word poverty. The work plays on the notion of the egg as a staple source of protein. In 2011, approximately 70.7 million metric tons of eggs were produced worldwide (“Global,” 2018). Each egg in the carton is a discrete unit, and might be considered as a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter—or perhaps, because each one is a whole, as a poem or a short story. All twelve of the eggs are blown, the whites and yolks removed. Inscribed on the fragile, empty shells are various statements related to poverty, some attributed to Statistics Canada. The concept plays ironically against the decorative arts associated with Easter and the message of resurrection through rebirth associated with the egg.

Michaelis, Catherine A. Old Flames Mismatched. Vashon Island, Washington: May Day Press, 2000.

5.0 x 3.8 cm unused matchbook.

Each of the 30 matches in the book is imprinted with a word or a phrase. The top row of ten matches reads as follows: “Lisa / loved / tiny things / like / miniskirts. / David / was a / great lover / but had / bad values.” The work plays on the notion of the book (book of matches) and the concept of finding a match (in terms of relationships). The story changes as matches are used. If the “Lisa” match is removed, the match underneath changes the narrative to “Peter / loved / tiny things / like / miniskirts. / David / was a / great lover / but had / bad values.” If the “bad values” match is then removed, the lines change to “Peter / loved / tiny things / like / miniskirts. / David / was a / great lover / but had / muscles.” This is a clever work that uses a static medium to play with meaning and narrative the way hypertext or computer-generated stories often do. It manages to reimagine the miniature book while at the same time using the structure of the matchbook (and the nature of it) to say something about the combustible and ephemeral nature of relationships.

Leñateros, Taller (writer), and Ambar Past (artist). The Lady of Ur. Taller Leñateros, 2004.

12.5 x 9 x 7 cm closed. Twenty-five folds, printed on both sides. The concertina form extends to approximately 5 m. 24/50.

The bas-relief cover in papier-mâché is the work of Maribel Rotondo and was inspired by a Sumerian sculpture (c. 3500–3000 BCE) of Inanna, a goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. The cuneiform/pictogram inscription on the back cover (c. 2112–2095 BCE) translates: “For Inanna the Lady of Ur-Nammu: the powerful King of Ur. Ruler of Sumer and Akkad has built your temple” (from the colophon).

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