Artists’ Books about the Environment

Today’s complex environmental issues call for interdisciplinary scholarship that integrates ideas across academic disciplines. As Emory scholars explore environmental humanities, the Libraries are adding collections to support research and teaching in this field. Among those resources is a growing collection of artists’ books. These works offer integrative and imaginative insights into the power of nature and the complex interactions between humans and the environment.

Emory Libraries started collecting artists’ books in earnest in the 1990s. Sandra Still, a former English subject librarian, was instrumental in the initiative. English and art history subject librarians partnered with Rose Library to fund a foundational collection. Today the Libraries own over 900 artists’ books and regularly purchases more from publishers, vendors, and artists to support research and curricular needs.

“An artist’s book is a medium of artistic expression that uses the form or function of ‘book’ as inspiration. It is the artistic initiative seen in the illustration, choice of materials, creation process, layout and design that makes it an art object.” ~ Anne Evenhaugen, “What is an artists’ book?” Smithsonian blog Unbound, June 1, 2012

Elizabeth Sanford, Backyard Food Chain, 2013

“This tunnel book features one of the many battles for survival that enfold in the woods behind my house. The spicebush swallowtail caterpillars are easy to spot in their golden instar stage, feasting on sassafras leaves. In the background, a nuthatch creeps down a branch while looking for a different kind of meal.” ~Artist’s statement

Andie Thrams, Field Studies No. 15: Lupinus albicauly: (without apology), 2014

“I travel into forests for hours, days, or weeks at a time…I paint with local river or sea water, I place found bark, leaves, soil, lichen, sap, and fungi on the paper to stain it, I let rain fall upon my work, I draw with found forest charcoal and twigs dipped in ink…Rather than portraying the western idealized distant landscape, where we are forever separate from nature, I want to document and evoke an experience of immersion in wildness. I believe this different matters.” ~Artist’s statement

Alicia Bailey, Extinct Extant, 2013

Based on the ornithology collection at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the artist focused on seven species that are believed to be extinct and exist only as dead specimens.

“I have considered that the continued existence of these birds in the form of skins, specimens and eggs at museums worldwide, is perhaps indicative of a human tendency to preserve remains rather than protect life.” ~Artist’s statement

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