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Category: homosexuality

Artists’ Books from Wisconsin

A sample page spread from The Twelve Articles

The Fine Arts Library owns hundreds of artists’ books – works of art created as multiples in book form. There is no particular reason why the form should been more popular in any one part of the world than any other, so I found it interesting when we acquired a substantial number of them published by private presses in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

From Brian Borchardt’s Seven Hills Press, we have Two Saints, a meditation on martyrdom and same-sex marriage and The Intrepid Ones about a community of men in Mexico who dress and act like women. Jeff Morin likes to juxtapose religious texts with sexual imagery. From his SailorBOY Press, we have Sacred Space, The Twelve Articles, and The Sacred Abecedarium.

The Fine Arts Library collects artists’ books in cooperation with other collections on campus such as the Houghton Library. All of our artists’ books are cataloged in the HOLLIS catalog.  Patrons interested in consulting works from the collection are encouraged to visit the library in the Littauer Center building.

Shades of Nakedness: the Douglass A. Roby Fund

One of the singular, and most generous, book funds available to the Harvard College Library is the one created by Douglass A. Roby, Class of 1965. Although Mr. Roby spent a great part of his career working for the New York City Transit Authority, he was an accomplished scholar, receiving advanced degrees from Yale University and Hunter College and specializing in medieval history. Just before his death in 2001, Mr. Roby established a fund to support library resources that provide a positive portrait of the lives of gay men and women.

One of the purchases made using Roby funds was a periodical called The Male Figure.  Bruce of Los Angeles (Bruce Bellas, 1909-1974) was one of the foremost photographers to emerge from the Southern California body-building mail-order catalogue scene of the mid-Fifties and early Sixties. This example of his work, a portrait of Rlee Brewer (not a typo), comes from the journal Bruce produced, published in three dozen tiny chapbooks from 1956 to 1965. In the era before Stonewall and Gay Liberation, when there was the very real chance that anyone purchasing photographs of nude men would be arrested, images of this sort had to be coded to pass as (somewhat) innocent depictions of musculature and exercise in a manner that would make them recognizable to (mostly closeted) gay men and invisible to everyone else.