When Images and Words Collide: The Artist Book and Where the Wild Things Are

Faculty Mentor(s)

Professor Katherine Sullivan, Hope College

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Many adults and children may recognize Maurice Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, but what they probably do not think about is that the original text and images were not a scattering of pages or a clean cut proof, but a bound hand-drawn “prototype” book, or what is referred to as an “artist book.” The original artist book for Wild Things is the predecessor of the manufactured and marketed book that people see on store shelves. The artist book is a relatively new field of study within the sphere of art mediums, which emphasizes the artist’s hand in the creation of a book. Maurice Sendak’s book Wild Things is a prime of example. Unlike previous notions on the design of a book, the artist book represents the process of creative thinking used to construct a work. Both visual artists and writers are involved in this new field, such as Audrey Niffenegger, who seems to be spearheading the development of it. These books can range from hand bound manuscripts consisting of traditional paper and binding to natural objects sewn together to create a new form of visual communication. The study of the artist book is of significant importance for artists and writers working in both fine art and print medias to be aware of since these books serve not only as prototypes for a manufactured product. These books are being increasingly recognized as works of art on the basis of their appearance, content and process. They offer insights into the creative experience by demonstrating how the process of writing and making images deserve just as much attention and appreciation as the finished product.

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