Artists’ Books: Experimentation in Form

One of the coolest finds we have in Carrier is the Artists’ Book collection. These are “books” in the sense that they convey a message to a viewer. They are usually handmade and published in small editions.

“Flowers in a Box” by Amy Schmierbach


For example, Barbara Kruger’s “Surveillance is Your Busywork” is literally a matchbook that Kruger has reworked. Amy Schmierbach ’s “Flowers in a Box” is a series of poems written on wallpaper, and the book is arranged like a wallpaper sample so you can flip all the pages out at once and see just how colorful the papers are.

Some stick closer to the traditional book form, such as Ann Kalmbach and Tatana Kellner’s “Pistol Pistil” which has the standard front and back cover, but they are made of wood and held together with two leather straps, allowing for dramatic pop-up pictures within the text. “The Dork Brothers: Take Five”, a Beevis and Butthead-esque series of comics by John Ellsberg and Michael Gentile also retains the traditional covers and binding one might find in other comic books, but the close focus on the city of Baltimore and the intricate, detailed ink drawings make it more special than a mass produced comic strip. Also, the copy we have is signed by Ellsberg and Gentile.

Front cover and sample comic from “The Dork Brothers” below. 



While I find it impossible to nail down my absolute favorite artist book, one of the most interesting ones I came across is called “Good Eats: Sit down, relax and enjoy: it’s the cook’s choice: selections from an appetizing array” by Carissa Carman. On the outside, the book looks like a little recipe holder but once you unfold the structure, the content is presented on retro-flashcards with one side showing a drawing of a meal or a table setting and the reverse containing a recipe that looks like one your grandmother may have copied. The bright, bold, and deliciously retro drawings will make anyone crave a home cooked meal.

Closed cover of “Good Eats” followed by what it looks like when you open it all the way. Samples of the recipe cards and a closeup of the handwritten, familial style of the content.





To access these, other artists’ and rare books, visit the Special Collections department in Carrier 205 and ask a student assistant or librarian to grab one for you! We’re open from  10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon-Fri.

Stay tuned for more artists’ books blogs! This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and the next set of books will take us from middle school crushes to the neon lights of the city.


One Reply to “Artists’ Books: Experimentation in Form”

  1. I just want to make you aware of a correction that needs to be made about “The Dork Brothers Take Five”, that you so kindly mention. The original Dork Brothers are actually John Ellsberry and Micheal Gentile, and we predated Beevis and Butthead by over ten years. Thanks for the kind words though.

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