Special Collections at UWM Libraries

Clarissa Sligh, 2010 Ettinger Book Artist Series

Clarissa SlighPhotographer and book artist Clarissa Sligh offered a presentation in the Ettinger Book Artist Series on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. in Special Collections on the fourth floor of the Golda Meir Library. This was the sixth year the Ettinger Family Foundation has supported the Book Arts Series.

Originally from Arlington, Virginia, and currently living in Ashville, N.C., Ms. Sligh worked and taught in New York City for 30 years. Her widely acclaimed work, held in library and museum collections around the world, centers on issues of race, identity, cultural constructs, and social justice.

Combining photographs, drawings, and texts, Sligh’s installations, alternative photographs, and artist’s books are personal and political reflections of her life experiences as a female African American, beginning at fifteen when she was the lead plaintiff (Clarissa Thompson et. al. vs. Arlington County School Board) in the 1955 school desegregation case in Virginia.

Her first artist’s book, What’s Happening with Momma? (1988), inspired by the artist’s memory of a younger sister who was born at home, brought her almost instant recognition. The artist’s books that followed have continued to explore the personal and political.

Reading Dick & Jane with Me (1989) examines the sad irony of low-income, African American children learning to read from European American-centered textbooks reflecting values of middle-class entitlement.  Voyage(r): Tourist Map to Japan (2000) is a response to Sligh’s uncomfortable experience of being an American tourist in a country still devastated by the memory of Hiroshima.

Her most recent book, Wrongly Bodied Two (2004), perhaps her most critically acclaimed work, deals with issues of race, class, sexual identity, and even slavery by documenting the physical, emotional, and psychological transformation from female to male of an individual named Jake.

Clarissa Sligh’s presence in Milwaukee is a collaboration with Woodland Pattern Book Center, where she offered a workshop on Sunday, October 17. She also offered a workshop for selected students at UWM.  For more information on Clarissa Sligh and her work, please visit her website at http://clarissasligh.com/

Image: From Clarissa Sligh’s Voyage(r): Tourist Map of Japan