Fit To Print: 12 Great Things about the Sixth Annual Artists’s Books Symposium at SCAD Atlanta

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A SCAD student looks at Adam Kuehl’s ( artist’s book Twenty Somethings. Photo courtesy of SCAD Atlanta ACA Library.
A SCAD student looks at Adam Kuehl’s artist’s book Twenty Somethings. Photo courtesy of SCAD Atlanta ACA Library.

1. The Artists’ Book Symposium at SCAD Atlanta is a wonderful tradition in which students and the public can hear some top names in the book arts talk about their work. Past speakers have included Carolee Campbell of Ninja Press, Robbin Ami Silverberg, and Marshall Weber from Booklyn Artists Alliance. The audience also gets to see the amazing books that SCAD students from many different departments have created over the academic year.
2. For a while, I have wanted to hear about the story of Nexus Press, the now defunct but culturally significant Atlanta-based artists’ books press, from Nexus’s founding director, Michael Goodman. Somehow, it has been hard for me to piece together the thirty-year history of this institution, which was one of the very first artists’ book presses in the United States, and made Atlanta a center for book arts. Fortunately, Goodman good-humoredly explained how the emergence of the press resulted from the free-spirited yet serious intentions of a handful of photographers based in the city.
3. Hearing Goodman describe how the FBI had put Nexus Press under surveillance to make sure the interns and bookmakers weren’t printing counterfeit money.
4. Looking at Bill Burke’s two books made with Nexus, I Want To Take Picture (1987) and Mine Fields (1995). These books offer autobiographical accounts of the time Burke spent photographing Khmer Rouge fighters in Cambodia.
5. Learning about a few of the amazing women book artists who did work with Nexus Press: Susan E. King, Clarissa Sligh, and Johanna Drucker.
6. Discovering Nexus’s support for the African-American photographer P.H. Polk (1898-1984). Polk was the school photographer for the Tuskegee Institute, a historically black university in Alabama founded by Booker T. Washington, from the 1930s until only a few years before his death. Polk took hundreds of remarkable portraits of African Americans living in Alabama during his career, and Nexus released the first limited edition monograph of his work in 1980. The book had a run of 1,200 copies and sold out; it looks like the book can now cost upwards of $1,000 on the resale market.
7. Getting a sneak peak of new prints and an artist’s book, entitled Color Noise, which SCAD printmaking professor Robert Brown made with his students and art world matriarchs Kiki Smith and Valerie Hammond.
8. Hearing Brown’s story about how a couple of graduate students had the rare, privileged opportunity to take Kiki Smith into a closet by the printmaking studios at SCAD and beat her up with some wooden spoons before taking photographs of her for a series of prints.
 A SCAD student looks at Elizabeth Castaldo’s artist’s book Specimen. Photo courtesy of SCAD Atlanta ACA Library.
A SCAD student looks at Elizabeth Castaldo’s artist’s book Specimen. Photo courtesy of SCAD Atlanta ACA Library.

9. Learning a bit more about SCAD Atlanta’s huge collection of artists’ books. At over 2,100 volumes, this library certainly has the largest assortment of these types of materials in the U.S. South and the most comprehensive collection of Nexus Press books. Mary Murphy, who I met at the Symposium, is the librarian in charge of this collection. If you want to find out more about SCAD’s artists’ books and schedule an appointment to take a gander at some of them, email Mary at [email protected].
10. Watching Michael Goodman show the audience how to make small books by folding and cutting an 8 ½ by 11 sheet of office paper.
11. Hearing Smokey Road Press founder Margot Ecke describe several of 25 artists’ books made by SCAD students that were selected for an exhibition that will be on view until July 15th at SCAD Atlanta’s ACA Library.
12. Getting to look through these aforementioned books, which show off the amazing photography, painting, printmaking, and bookbinding skills of SCAD students. Elizabeth Castaldo, a graduate student in printmaking, won the first place prize for her book Specimen (see image above), a circular book with abstracted watercolor images of bodily tissues. The book is housed inside of a petri dish. Below is a list of the other winners of the artists’ books competition. The first through third place winners receive a monetary purchase prize from the library; that is, ACA library buys these books for their artists’ books collection.
Other prizewinners: Lauren Agne, Magpies, Second Place, Senior in Graphic Design, Atlanta; Adam Kuehl, Twenty Somethings, Third Place, Graduate student in Photography, Savannah; Ashley Leuci, Steampunk Redesigned, Smokey Road Press Award for Technical Excellence, Senior in Graphic Design, Savannah.

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