Kevin Haas.

Washington State University printmaking professor Kevin Haas has collected artist’s books for roughly 25 years. With each new acquisition, a unique creative exploration is revealed. For example, Margot Lovejoy’s “Book of Plagues” examines the AIDS crisis, the fear and stigmatization surrounding it, and government indifference to the epidemic, with parallels to current crises. Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo made her book “We Are All Speaking at the Same Time” during 2020, echoing the Black Lives Matter protests, to celebrate and bring awareness of the LGBTQ and black, indigenous, and people of color communities and their voices.

Other books are meant to be playful, such as Eroyn Franklin’s “Just Noise,” which illustrates the bickering, arguments, and love that are part of a relationship.

“I am still thrilled when I discover these surprising, interactive, and affordable works of art,” said Haas, a member of fine arts faculty. “Getting to experience artist’s books firsthand and for the first time can be pretty magical. We don’t usually get to hold works of art in our hands like we do with artist’s books, so the viewing experience is very personal.”

What is an artist’s book?

The term “artist’s book” refers to publications that have been conceived as artworks in their own right, Haas said. Emerging from experiments in design and publications by artists in the early 20th century, the field of artist’s books took hold in the 1960s as artists sought out alternative ways of presenting their work. Artist’s books provide opportunities for artists to explore text, images, sequence, juxtaposition, time, and interaction, creating everything from cheaply made zines and handmade books to decks of cards and other printed ephemera.

“The book format is attractive to artists, since it allows their work to be accessible to a wide audience, as well as being very affordable,” he said.

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