The Special Collections and Archives on James Branch Cabell Library’s fourth floor was the spectacle of the evening this past Tuesday and Wednesday between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. with their first “Interactive Book Art” exhibit.
Headed by Gay Acompanado, Cabell Library’s archival assistant for the arts, the event was comprised of two sessions featuring interactive books from the nationally known VCU Book Art Collection.
“Book art” refers to a branch of artistic output where artists adapt the form and materials of the book as a medium. Book art might include traditional letterpress books with aesthetically or artistically rendered typography, fine bookbindings, artist books or sculptural book works; the exhibit at Cabell Library focused on book art with an interactive bent.
Global in scope, the artist books range in size and shape. The selections on display from the greater collection featured flip-books, sound pieces, board games and even pies.
The VCU Book Art Collection, now 32 years old, contains nearly 4,000 books, started out as a committee through the Cabell Foundation grant.
“I refer to it more as kind of a hidden treasure here at VCU,” Acompanado said. “Not a lot of people know about it unless you take art classes.”
For this event specifically, Acompanado said she wanted the main focus to be the interaction between the books and the students.
“Our main theme is to engage your senses with book art,” she said. “So I have pulled objects where it really is getting the viewer to look, touch and feel the page, engage their eyes, all of the senses.”
Acompanado laughed and admitted that books were not, in fact, particularly enjoyable in a gustatory way – but added that a book-cake and a book-pie were both on display.
“With that side, you see artists pushing the boundary of what a book is,” Acompanado said. “They really used the book as a vehicle for expression. … A book can transform from a two dimensional to a three dimensional, like a sculpture.”
The Special Collections and Archives contains over 50,000 individual items in areas like Richmond history and literature, popular culture and graphic arts, artist books, zines and others. The comic-arts collection in particular, with over 40,000 items, is known nationwide as one of the largest university comic collections in the country. Special Collections and Archives is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.