When it comes to book art, Shereen LaPlantz didn’t just write the textbook, she also made the books inside the textbook: handmade, paper sculptures with pages in concertina, diorama star or tunnel form. And thanks to a generous Tacoma couple, the University of Puget Sound’s Collins Memorial Library now owns over 100 of those artists’ books, giving students and community members alike the chance to study LaPlantz’s groundbreaking textbooks alongside the actual art pictured in them.
“Shereen was one of the first independent artists that documented and educated about the structure of artists’ books,” said Jane Carlin, the library’s director. “This was her collection of working models. It’s absolutely amazing,”
The collection comes courtesy of Tacoma residents Ken and Rochelle Monner. An art educator, colleague and close friend of Rochelle Monner, LaPlantz was an artist who moved from basketry to book arts, exploring that form her California studio. Before her death of cancer in 2003 at age 56, she exhibited widely and taught hundreds of workshops around the world. Her work is in numerous collections, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Now that work is upstairs in the new-collections space at the Collins. Next to LaPlantz’s classic 1998 textbook Cover to Cover is the golden-leafed book featured in its front photograph, the kimono-fabric covers bound in kettle-stitch with braided copper wire. Nearby is a concertina book with pages of interwoven red, dusky pink and brown; a maze book in bright coral and purple with dangly beads and a star book in olive and pale blue with cut-out windowpane pages. There’s an astonishing variety of paper, shapes and binding techniques.
“She was incredibly talented,” said Carlin. “It’s like book origami, and everything is in pristine and perfect condition. I don’t know of any other university with a collection like this.” Carlin plans to display some of the works from mid-June in cases outside the collections room and downstairs, with a reception early August. Meanwhile, in the main exhibition space is a show by the Puget Sound Book Artists group founded by Rochelle Monner. It’s a highly appropriate combination.
“So many book artists launched their careers through workshops and books offered by LaPlantz,” said Tacoma letterpress artist Jessica Spring in a press release. “It is fantastic to have (her collection) here in Tacoma, available for study and inspiration.”
What: artists’ books by Shereen LaPlantz
Where: Collins Memorial Library, University of Puget Sound,
1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma
When: library open 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday, Thursday;
7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday;
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday from June 19
How much: free
Learn more: 253-879-3669 | UPS