Sparking the Explosion: Perspectives on the Artist’s Book Format by LSU Art Faculty

On October 24th, LSU Libraries Special Collections hosted “Afternoon in the Archives: Book Arts” in conjunction with the “Exploding the Codex: Book Arts in Special Collections” exhibition now open in Hill Memorial Library. The work of three of LSU’s Art and Design faculty, Leslie Koptcho, Paul Dean and Kelli Scott Kelley, were featured among the many works on display from the Rare Book Collection. It is unusual for viewers to be able to speak directly with artists and delve deeper into the inspiration for and process of making art, no matter what form the art takes.  As LSU is fortunate to have all three of these artists on campus, I took the opportunity to ask each one six questions about their work, their thoughts on the book format, and other books artists that inspire them.

*Paul Dean, Associate Professor – Art/Graphic Design

Six Stereocollages (seven, if you count the cover)

1. What is it about the book format that appeals to you as an artist?
Growing up I always appreciated books and literature. At one point I took a year off from America and travelled around the world reading books. I felt a connection to a larger humanity through my experiences and especially through the books I read. Books are very personal and intimate, but at the same time they are a connection to all of history and humanity.

2. What inspired you to create this piece?
I had recently published Stereobook, a book composed entirely of text and illustrations I had xeroxed off of old phonographic records.  I couldn’t stop working with my materials, though. I wanted to do even more with them, and so I made these six stereocollages.

3. What did you enjoy most about the process of constructing this piece?
Because I no longer felt the pressure I had put on myself to make Stereobook, I was relaxed as I made the collages and brought them together in this book. I worked whimsically and Six Stereocollages probably suggests the joy I felt as I discovered the original material better than Stereobook.

4. What limitations or constraints did you encounter/perceive?
I was limited by what I could print with a photocopier and then produce by hand. At that time there were no color photocopiers, but some copiers could print in blue or red instead of black. I threw in a little red because I thought it would better match the warm cardstock of the cover.

5. What other artists’ books have you created/plan to create?
The most ambitious artist’s book that I have made since Stereobook is entitled CMYK. It was a promotional piece for a printer.

6. Are there any artists’ books/book artists that inspire you?  If so, what is that you admire about their work?
Long ago I really admired Tom Phillips’ books and his process, especially his use of second-hand materials. And I’ve been greatly inspired by an art book that I own by Shinro Ohtake. It’s called Atlanta 1945+50, and it pushes collage and collage books far further than I thought they could go.

*Kelli Scott Kelley, Professor – Art/ Painting and Drawing

Accalia and the Swamp Monster

1. What is it about the book format that appeals to you as an artist?
I didn’t set out to make an artist’s book. The imagery in my paintings had been dreamlike, symbolic and metaphorical. Though narrative in nature, the pieces were not based on stories.

2. What inspired you to create this piece?
In 2009 I became interested exploring the idea of making a body of work based on a narrative text, and began writing a fantastical story based on my autobiography and dreams. By 2010 I had a draft of the story Accalia and the Swamp Monster, and started the process of making artworks inspired by the story. I started exhibiting some of the pieces that year, and found that viewers were interested in hearing and reading the story, so I started contemplating ways in which the story and artwork images could be paired. Eventually I worked with LSU Press to make Accalia and the Swamp Monster into a book bringing the artworks and narrative text together.

3. What did you enjoy most about the process of constructing this piece?
Unexpectedly I became enrapt in the process of writing the story. While writing, I visualized images, which later evolved into paintings. It was exciting to make my work in a new way, starting with a narrative text.

4. What limitations or constraints did you encounter/perceive?
Since I was working with a publisher, it was a collaborative process. Even though I didn’t work independently to design the book, I was consulted on every decision and was happy with the final product.

5. What other artist’s books have you created/plan to create?
I wrote another story “The Floating Cottage,” and created a large painting (of the same name) for a touring exhibit “Mythologies Louisianaises,” which opened at Arthur Roger Gallery in 2018. I also have a draft of a story that has grown from “Accalia and the Swamp Monster.” In this case I created a group of paintings which unexpectedly inspired the narrative text. This project is still underway.

6. Are there any artists’ books/book artists that inspire you? If so, what is that you admire about their work?
I am inspired by many narrative artists, from old masters such as Hieronymus Bosch to contemporary artists like Paula Rego. As far as artists’ books, Max Ernst’s strange and dark collage novels, especially A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil, have been meaningful for me. I also love the surreal artworks and books by Leonora Carrington, such as her novel The Hearing Trumpet.

*Leslie Koptcho, Professor – Art/Printmaking

Falling Into

1. What is it about the book format that appeals to you as an artist?
The book format is appealing to me primarily because of its physicality. It offers a unique sensory experience, one where the reader can touch, turn, explore and feel. I’m also attracted to its collaborative nature—multiple voices co-existing within one work. The artist’s book is an amazing crucible for interdisciplinary inquiry, and sometimes, the perfect “package” for an artist’s idea—one that extends expressive, performative and/or informational functions.

2. What inspired you to create this piece?
I created Falling Into in collaboration with Ray Gonzalez and Rod Mills. At its inception, I had recently moved to San Antonio, TX, and was keen to learn more about the people and place I then called home. My original thought was to work with a woman poet from the area; I wrote Ray Gonzalez, a poet and then-director of the Guadeloupe Cultural Arts Center to ask for his suggestions. “How about me?” he replied; and that’s how the journey of Falling Into began. Almost immediately I realized I’d found a kindred voice; Ray, attuned to working with poetry and language; me, fully immersed in the visual. More importantly, our work at the time was intimately tied to family, and to the physical and spiritual body.

3. What did you enjoy most about the process of constructing this piece?
What I most enjoyed about the process was how the project evolved organically. The one requisite I insisted on was that neither Ray nor I would illustrate the other’s work; rather, we would respond to the other’s work, with the aim of co-creating our poems and images interdependently. To do this, we exchanged pamphlets: Ray wrote a poem and shared it with me; I drew an image and shared it with him; and so on until we came up with the framework of poems and images that would become Falling Into. From here, Mills and I created what we eventually referred to as the “wailing wall.” Here we pinned the ongoing drafts and sketches for the project, which allowed us to see the work as a whole while we fine-tuned the elements, positioning and repositioning pieces of visual imagery and text.

4. What limitations or constraints did you encounter/perceive?
The choice of intaglio printing was particularly difficult. Because I wanted the images to bleed the pages to make reading/viewing a more seamless experience, that made registering the color plates much more troublesome. We had to devise a unique system for all the colors to be in alignment. Another challenge was locating a commercial black paper for the end pages, which turned out to be impossible. In the end, we used intaglio to print three colors to make the same “black” to match the other prints in Falling Into.

5. What other artists’ books have you created/plan to create?
The main thrust of my art practice is printmaking, but I’m also enamored by paper—not only as a support, but as an active contributor to the content of the work. My students and I have been making paper out of locally sourced plant fibers and have made some interesting hand-formed sheets. I’m interested in creating several new books that bring together my research of plant fibers with my own imagery, which is focused on the natural world. My hope is the unique qualities of the paper, as well as the structure of the book, will add to the tactility and physicality I enjoy. Paper is like skin, and I am imagining this analogy will transfer to the artist books I have in mind.

Creating an artist’s book is creating an entire body of work within one single artwork. It requires a great deal of time and support.

6. Are there any artists’ books/book artists that inspire you?  If so, what is that you admire about their work?
Ever since my first visits to LSU Libraries Special Collections, the work of both Claire van Vliet and Julie Chen have been very inspirational. Both enlist impeccable letterpress craft. Claire’s work is noteworthy for the beautiful use of paper and pulp painting. With both artists, I am enthralled with the complexity of both the object, and the reading experience they create.

Handling the Flying Fish Press titles spurred me to invite Julie Chen to the LSU campus this semester. Her two days of talks and workshop were highly successful in motivating our students to appreciate and create more book art, a form which defies a single definition or interpretation. Julie’s work is about learning and decision making, qualities inherent in discovery and learning.

There is another book that comes to mind, and that is Black Sea Letter, which is a Ron King, Circle Press book by Claude Loubiéres and poet Kenneth White. The verse is printed in French and English, with hot wax creating transparent letterforms that contrast with the opacity of other parts of the pages.

There are so many exceptional examples of contemporary and historical works that classify as rare books. Many of the historical manuscripts, scientific texts, and botanicals also fuel my interest. LSU Libraries Special Collections is a gem in and of itself. It serves a critical and irreplaceable mission in support of my print, paper and book art classes.

Marty Miller is the Art & Design Librarian at LSU Libraries.

Posted in Events, Exhibitions, Special Collections

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Recent faculty publications


Kelsey, Sigrid, ed. Fostering Student Success: Academic, Social, and Financial Initiatives, ALA Editions, 2022.


O’Neill, Brittany. “Do They Know It When They See It?: Natural Language Preferences of Undergraduate Students for Library Resources,” College & Undergraduate Libraries. Volume 28, Issue 2 (2021).

O’Neill, Brittany and Rebecca Kelley. “Delivering Bad News: Crisis Communication Methods in Academic Libraries,” College & Research Libraries, Volume 82, Issue 3 (May 2021).

Connel, Ruth Sara; Lisa C. Wallis; David Comeaux. “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Use of Academic Library Resources,” Information Technology and Libraries. Volume 40, Issue 2 (2021).

O’Neill, B. (2021).”Three-layer primary source dip: Introducing history students to primary source research through active learning.” In The teaching with primary sources cookbook, edited by J. M. Porterfield, 16-18. Association of College & Research Libraries, 2021.


Blessinger, Kelly and Dave Comeaux. “User Experience with a New Public Interface for an Integrated Library System,” Information Technology in Libraries. Volume 39, Issue 1.

Cramer, Jennifer A. “First, Do No Harm”: Tread Carefully Where Oral History, Trauma, and Current Crises Intersect,” The Oral History Review, 47:2 (2020): 203-213, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1793679

Diamond, Tom, ed. The Academic Librarian in the Digital Age: Essays on Changing Roles and Responsibilities. McFarland, 2020.

Kelley, Rebecca and Mitch Fontenot. “Serving our Student Veterans in Louisiana,” Louisiana Libraries. Volume 82, Issue 2 (Spring 2020).

Kuyper-Rushing, Lois.A Thematic Index of Works by Eugene Bozza, A-R Editions, 2020.

Lounsberry, Megan. “Troubleshooting electronic resources from an ILL perspective,” Technical Services Quarterly, Volume 37, Issue 3.

McDonald, Ebony. “2020 Regina Medal Recipient Christopher Paul Curtis,” Catholic Library World. 

Miles, John David.  “James Harrison and the Tensas Troubles of 1878,” Civil War Book Review: Volume 22, Issue 1 (Winter 2020).

Morgan, Randa Lopez. 2020. “Supporting Student Wellness and Success through the LSU Libraries Relaxation Room.Journal of Library Outreach and Engagement v. 1, no. 1: 104–115.


Batte, Elizabeth; David Dunaway; Emily Frank; Sarah Mazur; and Laurie Phillips. “LOUIS Membership with Open Textbook Network Brings Incentive for Faculty OER Advocacy on Campuses,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 3 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Borchardt, Rachel; Polly Boruff-Jones; Sigrid Kelsey; and Jennifer Matthews, “A Proposed Framework for the Evaluation of Academic Librarian Scholarship” (2019). Proceedings of the Charleston Library Conference.

Comeaux, Dave;  Emily Frank; and Mike Waugh. “Supporting Student Success: E-books as Course Materials,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Dunaway, David. “Bibliometrics for Faculty Evaluation: A Stastical Comparison of h-indexes Generated Using Google Scholar and Web of Science Data,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 3 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Haber, Natalie, Melissa Cornwell, & Andrea Hebert. “This worksheet works: Making the DLS Standards work for you,” College & Research Libraries News. 

Hawk, Amanda K. “Implementing Standardized Statistical Measures and Metrics for Public Services in Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries,” Proceedings of the 2018 Library Assessment Conference, (Association of Research Libraries, 2019): 836-843.

Hebert, Andrea and Jodi Duet. “’I’m Really Confident I Can Find the Exact IKEA Pillow’: A Qualitative Look at the Search Self-Efficacy of Graduating MLIS Students,” Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian.

Lounsberry, Megan. “No Textbooks Allowed! (Unless You’re a Graduate Student!): Louisiana State University Pilots an ILL Textbook Service. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve, 28 (3/4): 61–73.

Miles, John David. “Colfax, Kate Grant, and the Domestication of Reconstruction’s Violence,” Civil War Book Review. Volume 21, Issue 2 (Spring 2019).

Miles, John David. “The Loyalty of West Point’s Graduates Debated,” Civil War Book Review. Volume 21, Issue 1 (Winter 2019).

Miller, Marty. “Curriculum, Departmental, and Faculty Mapping in the Visual Arts Department,” Art Documentation, Volume 38, Issue 1 (March 2019): 159-173.

Morgan, Randa L. “Libraries and Gardens: Growing Together.” Catholic Library World, Volume 90, Issue 1 (September 2019): 68.

O’Neill, Brittany; and  Allen LeBlanc. “Evaluating Trends in Instruction Scheduling Management: A Survey of Louisiana’s Academic Libraries,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Russo, Michael, “The Moon Belongs to Everyone:  ResearchGate and Subscription Databases Compared.”  Louisiana Libraries. Volume 81, Issue 3, (Winter 2019).

Russo, Michael, “Information Literacy through Service Learning” in Library Collaborations and Community Partnerships: Enhancing Health and Quality of Life.  Fannie M. Cox, Henry R. Cunningham, and Vickie Hines-Martin, eds., 2019.

Simms, Sarah; Hayley Johnson. “Hidden in Plain Sight,” 64 Parishes (Magazine of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities). Issue 4 (Summer 2019).

Simms, S., & Johnson, H. Subtle activism: Using the library exhibit as a social justice tool, Alexandria, Volume 29, Issue 1-2 (2019).

Ziegler, Scott; and Cara Key. “More Than a Pretty Interface: The Louisiana Digital Library as a Data Hub,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Ziegler, S.L. “Digitization Selection Criteria as Anti-Racist Action,” Code4Lib Journal. Issue 45 (2019).

Ziegler, S.L. and Steve Martin. “A Hidden Gem Becomes a Fertile Mining Ground: Historic Prison Admission Books and Data-Driven Digital Projects,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Volume 143, Issue 3 (October 2019): 363-373.


Hebert, Andrea. “Information Literacy Skills of First-Year Library and Information Science Graduate Students: An Exploratory Study,” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Volume 13, Issue 3 (September 2018).

Miller, Marty. “Sacred vs. Profane in The Great War: A Neutral’s Indictment: Louis Raemaekers’s Use of Religious Imagery in Adoration of the Magi and Our Lady of Antwerp.” Catholic Library World, vol. 89, no. 1, Sept. 2018, pp. 20–32.

Rasmussen, Hans. “The Life and Death of Raquette in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans,” Sport History Review 49 (May 2018): 23-38.

Wilder, Stanley. “Delayed Retirements and the Youth Movement among ARL Library Professionals,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Wilder, Stanley. “Hiring and Staffing Trends in ARL Libraries,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Wilder, Stanley. “Selected Demographic Trends in the ARL Professional Population,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Ziegler, Scott; and Richard Shrake. “PAL: Toward a Recommendation System for Manuscripts,” Information Technology and Libraries, Vol. 37, No. 3 (2018).


Caminita, C.; Cook, M.; and Paster, A. (2017). Thirty years of preserving, discovering, and accessing U.S. agricultural information: Past progress and current challenges. Library Trends, 65(3), 293-315.

Dauterive, Sarah; John Bourgeois; and Sarah Simms. “How little is too little? An examination of information literacy instruction duration for freshmen.” Journal of Information Literacy, 11.1 (2017): 204-219.

Fontenot, Mitch; Emily Frank; and Andrea Hebert. “Going Where the Users Are: Three Variations on a Theme,” Louisiana Libraries, Fall 2017.

Hawk, Amanda K. “Highflying Crowdfunding: Creating a Successful Partnership with a Campus Donor,” Archival Outlook, July/August 2017: 12-13, 19.

Hebert, Andrea; and Marty Miller. (2017). Using FSA-OWI photographs to teach information and visual literacy. Louisiana Libraries, 79(3), 19–25.

Johnson, Hayley. “#NoDAPL: Social Media, Empowerment, and Civic Participation at Standing Rock,” Library Trends, Fall 2017.