Resources Copied for Reproduction
The significance of insects influenced Joann Engelhart's use of Special Collections. She began a journey back from a series of personal tragedies to find the 'core' of her work. Childhood photographs, quilting, and gardening were an essential part of the process. The photographs prompted a need for her to plant a garden of her own like the one her father had tended, and one that she had enjoyed. When her garden became infested with insects she turned, out of frustration, to a study of the images of insects. After some research, Engelhart began to rethink the role of tiny mites and their essential role in recycling. In this light, she investigated Francesco Redi's Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione Degl'Insetti (1668), a treatise on insects, especially lice. Mites and lice took on new significance as Engelhart learned of their essential work in recycling. Through a complex process, she prepared fabric to create a reliquary in which the reproduced image of a louse is cut open and inserted with rosebuds reminiscent of the picture of Christ revealing his bleeding heart. This image is part of a triptych Engelhart created as she journeyed from childhood memories of gardens, woods, fields, and creeks, creating a garden of her own where she confronted insects that appeared to be enemies, but were transformed into valued adversaries worthy of celebration in her art work.
With a formalist concern for the addition of line in her printmaking, Cheryl Olson-Sklar also used Redi's text as resource for images in her artwork. Olson-Sklar's printmaking career has resulted in works where color and shape are of primary importance. In looking for new material, she found herself drawn to Redi's seventeenth-century treatise. Her attraction to the illustrations of insects was stimulated not only by the impact of line, but also by the large visual presentation of insects and the details of their bodies. Furthermore, each illustration was elaborately titled with captions in banners of flowing ribbons. All these elements can be seen in her prints that are composed of layers of images from printing plates representing a range of processes. During the process of selecting these images, Olson-Sklar was surprised to discover that the insects represented in such an elegant manner in Redi's book were, in fact, poultry lice. Gradually, she came to understand the importance of these tiny beings to the environment. And so the addition of these linear elements took on a new significance.
Stephanie Copoulos-Selle used the three-volume collection of Commodore Matthew C. Perry's Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Sea and Japan (1856) in a variety of ways. In the sections that follow, I will describe her use of this narrative as a model for her own three-volume artist's book and how the resource contributed to process/media. Pertinent to this category, however, is Copoulos-Selle's appropriation of images from Perry's book, as well as the book's page layout. A broad range of other books on Japanese prints, Japanese painted fans, works of Hiroshige, and pictures of Japanese life contributed additional material. For example, Copoulos-Selle created endpapers for her artist's book using Japanese decorative patterns reproduced from these resources. This paper was then over-printed with her own narrative. In this way the images create a sort of background for a three volume "expedition" of Lola, Copoulos-Selle's heroine, into the world of baseball. More than a background, they create a kind of visual tension as one tries to make connections, enjoying puns such as star charts from the China Sea and "stars" from baseball cards, and pondering the wonder of the human spirit that is drawn to the unknown.
Another work of art that is filled with visual tension is the compelling image of a starving child combined with ceramic "paper dolls" in the mixed media work of Carl Hedman. The image of the child is photocopied from the 1999 Pennyroyal Caxton printing of the Holy Bible, designed and illustrated entirely by Barry Moser. The juxtaposition of the two images create a struggle between the carefully rendered lines of the print appropriated from wood engravings Moser created for his impressive undertaking, and the playful rendering of paper dolls in clay that Hedman added. It is this struggle that engages the viewer to contemplate other struggles suggested by the work. Lifting the image from Moser's monumental work seems to be a tribute to the artist as Hedman calls attention to the power of that image. It is important to note that Carl Hedman works regularly with young children in a neighborhood school and has deep concerns for many of those children.
Steve Sellars became intrigued by references another artist had made to his children by inscribing messages to them on his sculpture. In Sellars's large format photographs, images of flowers, flower parts, and other organic forms found in seventeenth-century natural history books are used to make visual connections to his children. These images, like the messages that inspired them, are superimposed over Sellars's photographs of a mannequin that a colleague found in the studio where she was teaching. The mannequin has the odd characteristic of having the top of its head hinged so that it can be opened. The organic images are carefully positioned over this form.
When asked about the experience of selecting the images to be appropriated, Sellars exclaimed that it was fascinating to open books that perhaps no one had opened in decades, and discovering images that may not have been seen for a hundred years. Indeed, this may be the case for the particular books Sellars used for the work in this project, for example Antoni van Leeuwenhoek's Arcana Naturae published in 1695 and its companion text, Continuatio Arcanorum Naturae Detectorum published in 1697.
The artists in this category involving mechanically or digitally copied images reproduced in their work, sought out these images for a variety of reasons. There is variety as well in the processes and media that books in Special Collections offered to this group of artists.