Art, Collections and Resources, Literary

Cracking Open Artists’ Books at Sloane Art Library


L to R: Josh Hockensmith and Heather Gendron, Sloane Art Library; Vicky and Bill Stewart, Vamp & Tramp Booksellers.

By Patrick Dollar

Not all libraries offer books that are printed on paper towels or that include a rusted hunk of metal from a shipwreck.

But UNC’s Sloane Art Library does.

On Nov. 18, the Art Library hosted a trunk show of artists’ books from Vamp & Tramp, Booksellers as part of the library’s efforts to collect and promote the form.

Artists’ books are works of art created as books, explains Heather Gendron, head of the Sloane Art Library. They can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including pocket-sized books, scrolls, loose items, and traditionally bound books.

A major goal of the Art Library’s collection of artists’ books is to show students and patrons the full range of possibilities the form offers. At the trunk show, Vamp & Tramp displayed works by artists from around the world and across the country, including North Carolina. The works reflected a range of forms and covered highly varied themes including slavery, human anatomy, quilting, the history of the dollar bill, and the power of editors and editing.

Sharon Sharp’s The Incompleat Editor Polishes Passages from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is a miniature book that opens sideways, unfolding like an accordion. Attached to the front is a tiny green pencil. The text includes overzealous red-lining of the classic novel as a playful examination of the editorial process.


Detail of Fred Hagstrom’s “Passage”

Fred Hagstrom’s oversized book Passage, by contrast, examines the historic tragedy of the slave trade, particularly the middle passage, or journey to North America. The book repurposes archival images, including iconic diagrams by abolitionist Thomas Clarkson that depict the inhumane crowding aboard slave ships.

Gendron plans to purchase Passage for the collection. In addition to its fine examples of screen printing techniques, she says, the subject matter is compelling and will be used by students and faculty in many departments on campus.

The Sloane Art Library currently holds just over 700 artists’ books, and acquires twenty to thirty new ones each year, says Gendron. Gift and endowment funds support the majority of these purchases.

The collection is open to the campus and local community. Its strengths include:

  • Latin American artists’ books, especially from Argentina, Cuba, and Mexico;
  • Works by North Carolina artists;
  • Works featuring outstanding examples of different printmaking methods; and
  • Works from several major artists’ book presses.

Gendron encourages patrons to ask at the circulation desk or call ahead to arrange an appointment to view the artists’ books in the library. Contact the Sloane Art Library at (919) 962-2397.

Related Links


Sharon Sharp’s “The Incompleat Editor Polishes Passages from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.”



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