In commemoration of UTM’s 50th birthday, along with UTM Library’s 10th anniversary, the library commissioned Guy Laramée to make “Oxford Dictionary”—a book sculpture. Currently, the book sculpture piece is encased with glass and placed in center of the library.
After receiving approval for an artistic proposal by the 50th Legacy Fund, the UTM Library began its search of artists in March 2017. The library was awarded $10,000 to fund its artistic project.
Shelly Hawrychuk, interim chief librarian, stated that the library wanted a timeless piece of art for the UTM community’s enjoyment.
Hawrychuk said, “The legacy fund for the 50th anniversary of the campus was developed for groups to create or obtain something that was to be a legacy piece or project – something that would stay on campus and be a part of the future of this campus. […] In the library we thought that a piece of art, which represents the campus and what we are and do in libraries would be perfect. We wanted to have something in our library that would last well beyond us.”
According to Daniela Cancilla, communications librarian, the search for artists was intentionally local. Cancilla browsed online websites and found Canadian artist Laramée. Initially, Cancilla emailed Laramée examples of artworks that she found appealing. What appealed to Cancilla, and the rest of the library staff, about Laramée was his unique style. Laramée carves and sandblasts volumes of books to etch out meandering landscapes.
“My work with books deals first with the loss of culture. We lose bits and pieces of culture(s) every day. For example, the paper version of the dictionary is now hard to find. Specialized researchers might still use it, but as a cultural icon, it is now replaced by an online database,” Laramée said, regarding one meaning of his artworks.
Cancilla’s personal interpretation is that Laramée equates the corrosion of landscapes with the corrosion of knowledge. Specifically, Cancilla said that the way that Laramée carves out his books visually depicts the degradation of culture. Cancilla admitted that the themes underlying the “Oxford Dictionary,” particularly, bears only a broad relation the campus.
Laramée further added that his work revolves around the theme of knowledge.
“I would like us to remember that we cannot only know the world, we also be the world,” Laramée said.
When asked why UTM library decided to install an art piece in particular, Hawrychuk explained that libraries have a close connection with the art world.
“Libraries are responsible for the stewardship of knowledge and for the commitment to stewardship of the cultural and historical legacy of our community,” Hawrychuck elaborated.
Cancilla also added that the installment of the art piece had an aesthetic purpose—it was made to beautify the surrounding environment. Another purpose for the artwork, according to Cancilla, was to have a centerpiece for students and staff to gather around; in a way, the presence of the artwork aims to foster a sense of campus community.
When discussing with Laramée about the conception of an artwork, the librarian staff spoke with Laramée to express what they thought about the library’s role. In terms of artistic direction, Cancilla said that the library granted Laramée artistic freedom.
“He was impressed by our natural surroundings and so he wanted to incorporate that into the sculpture,” Hawrychuk said.
In terms of dimensions, “Oxford Dictionary” is twelve volumes long and is 30x9x12 inches. Cancilla stated that in the upcoming weeks, overhead lights and a plaque for the piece will be installed.