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Maureen Cummins: Social Conscience

  • Kohler Art Library, University of Wisconsin 800 University Ave Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

World-renowned book artist Maureen Cummins has produced over 30 limited edition works tackling social justice issues. She mines historic materials to expose hidden meanings, and provide poignant entry into moments in history that are often overlooked.

"It's a startling and awe-inspiring experience to be handling materials that our ancestors, sometimes centuries ago, created," Cummins explains. "It gives you a shocking perspective. You truly get a rich and nuanced understanding of human history."

Her work addresses difficult social issues like women's rights, race relations, human oppression and torture, poverty, identity, and mental illness. She utilizes original photographs, business documents, slave narratives, hospital records, turn-of-the-century gay love letters, and other historical archival material to explore new and disturbing meanings in and around these issues.

"The subject matter I research, while often dark, is not esoteric," Cummins notes. "There's something interesting about the process of looking at dark subjects, or disasters, that others have researched before. I'm looking for a new angle that allows me to see something that nobody else has seen. I'm looking for the accounts that aren't the official history, but rather created by people in an unselfconscious way, that allow you to see the detailed accounts of why or how something happened."

For more information, please contact the Kohler Art Library at 608-263-2256 or