Resource as a Model
It is important to note that Special Collections contains a sizable collection of fine-press publications and artist's books. These handmade objects, which served as a resource for my undergraduates, also served the artists who chose this form for their work in this exhibition. For the purposes of this essay, I have not included those resources nor did I find them on the lists some of the artists provided. However, I wish to acknowledge this valuable asset for students of the book arts of all ages and talents.
In the most obvious use of the resource as model, Stephanie Copoulos-Selle challenged herself to use Commodore Perry's expedition to the China Sea and Japan as a model for her three-volume edition of Lola's experience with baseball. The first volume of Perry's book is a narrative of the trip, a captain's journal including his misconceptions and biases. The second volume describes artifacts observed during the trip. The third volume is a collection of star charts as seen from the China Sea. It was Copoulos-Selle's feeling that the character of Lola paralleled Perry's naivete about the experience of another culture. For Perry it was the culture of the Japanese people; for Lola it was the culture of baseball.
In the first volume Lola describes the experience of a little league ball game, an adult game in a league made up of artists, and a professional league game at Milwaukee's County Stadium-the Brewers vs. the Cincinnati Reds. The description not only described the game, but also the food, drink, clothing of spectators, and other aspects of these events. Her text was informed by both observation and interviews. In addition she photographed people in poses similar to those Perry recorded.
In the second volume she focused on illustrations of artifacts. These were scanned from a range of sources outside of Special Collections. The illustrations were overprinted on paper that had baseball statistics on it.
For the third volume, a pun was the format, and published catalogues of baseball cards were used for illustrations of "stars." This attention to detail in modeling her work after the volumes of Perry's expedition is remarkable and I have only given you a sense of it. In fact, each revisiting of Copoulos-Selle's work of art revealed further references.
Though less obvious, Kyoung Ae Cho's display of wood samples encased in sheer fabric that allows the wood's translucent quality to be seen is modeled directly on the pages of the resource she selected. While her piece is a two dimensional work of art and not a book form, the reference is unmistakable.
In Pamela Schermer's paintings, there is great intentionality to model her paintings after the still life paintings found in the book compiled by Patrizia Consigli Valente. The reason is clear when one reads her artist's statement. Schermer wishes to express her love of the history of painting and an ecstatic immersion in nature by invoking the illusionistic forms of seventeenth-century models.
In conclusion, all fourteen artists have made apparent, in varying degrees, their use of resources from Special Collections for the works of art they created for The Shape and Color of Research Project. There is an additional resource that would be impossible to fully document. That resource is the knowledgeable staff of Special Collections and most especially, Max Yela. It has been my pleasure to work with all of them.