Maureen Cummins, “Anthro(A)pology”

Cover of book

Sample spread

Sample spread

Sample spread

Assorted spreads


Maureen Cummins (High Falls, NY)

silkscreen and letterpress
Edition of 25
60 pages
9″ x 24″ open
9″ x 12″ closed

Anthro(A)pology examines the way in which pseudo-scientific images, charts, diagrams, and other supposedly factual representations have been used for over five centuries to “teach racism.” The book pairs images from official texts with the artist’s own imagined apologies, which are written not only in the literary style of the time, but also in the appropriate handwriting. The images, which reflect a wide array of attitudes—naïve, condescending, paternalistic, prurient, voyeuristic, anthropomorphic, xenophobic, and outright hateful—are counter-balanced by responses that are equally varied in style, attitude, and sincerity. Throughout the book, color is used as a symbol—to mirror the myriad, deceptive, and often visually-pleasing guise in which racism is presented. The artist uses her “apologia” as both scathing commentary and as a context for interpreting the images (which range from the seemingly innocuous to the incomprehensibly scientific).

While Anthro(A)pology examines the role images play in the social construction of racism, it simultaneously celebrates the value of Special Collections: by keeping and protecting books and other cultural artifacts, archives keep alive the process of critical thinking, reflecting and questioning. The images, which are drawn from scientific books and other official texts, were gathered from over a dozen Special Collection research archives across the country.

Anthro(A)pology was produced in 2014 in an edition of 25 copies. All texts and images were printed letterpress onto snow-white sheets of Czech Prague handmade by Velke Losiny. Color fields underlying each image are water-based ink washes hand-applied by the artist. The book is three-quarter bound in the style of 19th century photo albums, with cover sheets handmade by Cave Paper. Each copy of the edition is housed in a handsome slipcase that contains an image from 1802, “Head of a Parricide,” printed in metallic gold.