Artists Books Exhibition

ENGL 3703.02: Book History, From Manuscript to Magazine

After studying Western print culture over the course of a term, I asked my students to create an “artist’s book” for their final project and to write an essay placing that work within the greater context of print history. Their work was stunning. We decided to stage a two-week exhibition of their “books” in McFarlin Library’s Special Collections at the University of Tulsa.

Blade of Beowulf


Blade of Beowulf
Artist: Steven Lewis

Medium: 440 stainless steel blade engraved with an electric engraver; composite polymer and metal handle; 3M Bondo Putty and black paint used to create a flush surface around the dragon decal at the butt end of the handle.

The Blade of Beowulf serves as symbolic representation of the role of military might in book history. Whenever Charlemagne conquered an area, he forced its scribes to write in a standardized “roman” font so that his decrees could be easily read and disseminated. Strong narratives also help unite cultures around ideals, and this artist book reminds us that sometimes the sword is just as mighty as the pen.



maggie and milly and molly and may

Artist: Whitney Lechner
Medium: Linoleum print bound in cardboard with acrylic.

This linoleum-cut book is a tribute to the art of woodcut, which is found in nearly all eras of book production from ancient to modern. Each separate page was made by carving an inverse/reversed image into a sheet of linoleum, inking the plate, and using a printing press to transfer the image onto paper. In contrast to traditional illustrated books that separate text from illustration, this book seeks to integrate both the verbal and the visual aspects of the book into one cohesive design. The final product is an illustrated version of E. E. Cummings’ poem “maggie and milly and molly and may.”

A Century of The Wild
Artist: Craig Schultz
Medium: Re-purposed Books, Wood, Tape

A Century of The Wild is an attempt to highlight everything that goes unnoticed or taken for granted when reading a book. Starting with a copy from 1909 and moving forward to a modern 2009 version, each chapter of the story progresses both the storyline and a literal time-line. With each edition placed so abruptly next to one another, the nuances of reading a book are highlighted. How does the paper feel, smell, look like? How does each copy vary in illustrations, intended audience, or sheer size? A Century of The Wild is both a dedication to the physicality of books and tribute to a story that has become part of American culture.


Falling into the Book

Artist: Sara Swearengin
Medium: Three books, colored card paper, box cutter, glue

With this project I wanted to make something unique out of an old, familiar medium, the book itself.  I had always wanted to make a hollowed out book like something you would see in a movie to hide things in, so when presented with the opportunity, I seized it – though it was tougher than expected. I placed a book within a book within a book in order to display how we can never be truly separated from past readings, and that we carry the knowledge and adventure of books with us in everything that we think, write, and read.  Some of my favorite quotes from authors, poets, and historical figures are represented on the inside covers to add to the idea of the interdependence of all things that we read, as well as to add some much needed color!



Planting Text
Artist: Alexandra Parham
Medium: Magazines and Vase

Plants have  had a big impact on book history. Paper production became an important factor in creating and circulating the book to the masses. Thanks to the innovations in plant-fabricated paper, the book is where it is today. My artist book is made out of the the very plants it attempts to symbolize by drawing our attention to the plant-based nature of our reading material.



Valley of the Dollshrd1
Artist: Daniel Hrdlicka
Medium: Wood, Plastic.

Inspired by Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 camp classic novel, Valley of the Dolls explores the conceptual connections between women and drug abuse, Barbies and Barbiturates.
In her book The Way We Never Were, historical sociologist Stephanie Coontz writes: “The hybrid idea that a woman can be fully absorbed with her youngsters while simultaneously maintaining passionate sexual involvement with her husband was a 1950s invention that drove thousands of women to therapists, tranquilizers, or alcohol when they actually tried to live up to it.” Women were expected to comply with the impossible ideals of a Leave-it-to-Beaver-style existence, and many turned to the promises of psychopharmacology when these goals proved unattainable.hrd2
It was at this time that Barbara Millicent Roberts shook Post-War America and quickly became, for better and for worse, an indelible cultural icon. Does Barbie represent a liberation from womanly strictures by encapsulating perfect femininity in a controllable plastic package, or has this idealized idol driven women to seek solace in dolls of a different sort?

Welcome to the Valley of the Dolls.


Artist: Lisa Neubert
Medium: Paper on VHS Tape

This project is a study of the art of film adaptation, specifically the adaptation of the film Adaptation from Susan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief. To make this artist’s book, I used a film called Adaptation about adaptation, which itself was adapted from a book, to discuss the difficulties of the adaptation process. By physically merging the words from The Orchid Thief and the film tape of the VHS of Adaptation, I created my own adaptation poem which can be read by winding the VHS tape.


A Life in Greeting Cards
Artist: Caryn Gillean
Medium: Paper Products (Greeting Cards, Envelopes), Glue


Using only artwork and text not created by myself and so in the spirit of greeting cards, I wanted to create a narrative of a person’s life shown through the cards they might receive.  I divided the cards into chapters to indicate both chapters in a book, and chapters in a person’s life.  I kept the book in the closest form to a greeting card that I could, so it is contained inside an envelope.  My overall purpose was to depict the use of cards in our culture by making a narrative without actually saying anything, since cards exist to bridge gaps between people by saying things from the giver to the recipient that would otherwise probably not be said.

A photo gallery of the exhibition’s opening:

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With special thanks to Adrian Alexander, Marc Carlson and Milissa Burkart at McFarlin Library.

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