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University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

Student book art is exquisite -- and highly collectible

Feb 28, 2013 2:59 PM

“Visit the library” was at the top of Eliot Dudik’s list of things to do once he arrived on campus as an art instructor in 2011.

“I wanted to check out the special collections,” said Dudik, whose courses include ARTS 564 The Art of Bookmaking.

“I met with Jeffrey Makala, and he offered to show some of those collections to my students. As a class, we visited the Irvin Department early in the semester, and it was a huge benefit for the students to be able to see some of the handmade books in the libraries’ collections.”

Later in the semester, Dudik was struck by the level of artistry, creativity and originality he saw in his students’ book art. And he is at least a fair judge of art -- he was recently named “One of the 100 New Superstars of Southern Art” by The Oxford American magazine.

“My students were making some incredible things,” Dudik said. “For the final project, students make any kind of book they want using the techniques they’ve learned in class. The course is open to anyone across campus. I’ve had students from the math department, English, criminal justice, and other areas of the art department, and they all bring a different experience to the class and create all types of books."

When Dudik talked to Makala about housing some of the books created in the class, Makala was interested, certainly, but wanted to see how the work was progressing.

“I wasn’t expecting this quality of student work,” Makala said. “The sheer range of what everyone did amazed me. Some of the books are photography, some are memoir, others employ graphic design or screenprinting. Many of them are elaborate pop-up or cut-out books. Any of these books a collector would find attractive and want to buy.

“I’m now building a student archive from every iteration of the class,” Makala said. “Students in the course make two copies of their books; they are required to be able to reproduce it and make a small edition. If they want to be part of the library collection, they submit three copies. And most of the students have."

“We’ve bought student photography books in the past, but we have never accepted student art en masse,” Makala said. “To date, we have approximately twelve books. They will be cataloged and available to patrons. I see a lot of studio art students on a semester basis, and these books will also be part of our teaching collection. And because they are so visually interesting, I can guarantee we’ll have them on exhibit in the future.”

Makala will have more books to add in the not-too-distant future: ARTS 564 will be offered again this fall.

In the photo, above: Untitled, by student Ting Ting Young, features a series of elaborate cut-outs such as the carousel shown here, which has tiny paper pieces that move with gravity as the wheel turns, mimicking the movement of human riders. Other student work includes a patchwork brochure made from recycled materials and bound with a used guitar string; a storybook filled with sketches; a photographic essay of one student's hometown in England; and a book of photographs dedicated to a student's father and bound in a pair of his faded blue jeans.