~ by Erin Doherty
University of Wisconsin-Madison students in Lyn Korenic’s Spring 2016 Art Librarianship class had a homework assignment that meant a lot more than a grade. One of the assignments for the LIS 855 class was to curate and install an exhibit in the Kohler Art Library using resources from the Artists’ Book Collection. The theme and title of the exhibit, bodyPARTS/bookARTS, was chosen by the students during the fourth week of class, and the display went up in the Kohler Library on March 15.
The Artists’ Book Collection contains over 1,100 limited edition books, which represent the works of individual artists and presses from all over the world. The database was created in 2007 as a finding aid to foster easier public access to the materials. The database website notes: “Forming a body of information on typography, papermaking, paper engineering, graphics, bookmaking, design, and creative writing, the Artists’ Book Collection is an important laboratory for students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students from institutions around the state.”
Each of the seven graduate students chose and conducted research on two artists’ books from the Kohler Art Library. They wrote the caption labels for the exhibit and collaborated with each other to share ideas and produce the final product.
“The exhibit is a great way to showcase some of our hidden collections,” said Korenic. “Everyone sees the world from a different perspective, and it was interesting to see what the students came up with….[The project] allows students to articulate their personal interpretation of the materials.”
The exhibit explores themes and perceptions of the body and its assorted parts. The different components of the exhibit highlight various artistic investigations of the body through social, cultural, economic, and political lenses. Chosen by the student curators, the books convey messages about gender, identity, power, and race, among other themes. Some take a more lighthearted tone with depictions of humorous names for body parts, organs, and bones.
A description of the exhibit on the Kohler Art Library’s website says, “In these works, the body can be seen in a state of constant change and struggle, marked by the dehumanizing aspects of technology, the fragility and fragmentation of life, the mutable concepts of beauty, and the body marginalized and censored.”
Korenic said that the project gave students the opportunity to learn curatorial skills and practice writing an exhibit label, but it also gave them the chance to learn from each other’s experiences.
“I think this group has coalesced and bonded around this exhibit,” she said.
The exhibit, which runs through June 5, was curated by the following students: Emma Babler, Meri Rose Ekberg, Molly Goltry, Sigrid Peterson, Erin Rose, Maddie Shovers, and Abby Wanserski.