Every Book a Mirror: Book Artists Engage with the 21st Century

January 23, 2023

Artists’ books are works of art created using the book form. As they explore the idea of what a book can be, artists challenge readers and ask them to confront urgent issues.

An artist's book with pages of handcrafted paper that were made by veterans from their military uniforms.

In War, 1940-, by Karen Baldner & Drew Campion (2017)

That idea is the core of a new exhibit at the North Carolina Collection Gallery in Wilson Special Collections Library. Every Book a Mirror presents artists’ books and zines from the Sloane Art Library at UNC-Chapel Hill that are engaged with vital social issues of the 21st century. Whether addressing a monumental issue like climate change or the intimate details of an individual history, featured works use craft, storytelling and the simple act of publishing to make powerful statements.

Every Book a Mirror contains more than 70 individual artists’ books and zines. These materials were selected to represent an extensive collection at the Sloane Art Library, which includes over 1400 artists’ books and nearly 400 zines. In building its teaching collection, the Art Library collects as broadly as possible so that students and other patrons can see the full range of possibilities in the artists’ book form. Special strengths of the collection include work from major artists’ book presses, Latin American artists’ books (especially from Argentina, Cuba and Mexico) and books featuring fine examples of different printmaking methods, as well as work by North Carolina artists.

The exhibition’s title comes from a quote by Michael Ende, author of “The Neverending Story” and “Momo.” In a collection of short stories titled “Mirror in the Mirror,” Ende asks, “Is not every book a mirror in which the reader is reflected?” The works displayed in the exhibition hold that mirror up to both reader and society, asking us to see ourselves and each other in a new light.

Every Book a Mirror opened on January 7 and will be on display through July 12, 2023. A talk with creator Ashley Minner about her artist’s book, “The Exquisite Lumbees” will take place virtually on February 16, 2023.

A black and red accordion-style book.

43: Cuarenta y tres, by Lorena Velázquez (2015)

Three artists' books. Two are spiral-bound. The book on top depicts a hand with a dark skin tone holding a phone

Reader on Reparations, Re: Black Twitter, and Faces of the Colonizer, by Kandis Williams (2016 / 2019 / 2016, respectively)