New Artists’ Books: Delightful and Disturbing

DePaul University Special Collections and Archives has acquired two mesmerizing titles created by one of our favorite book artists, Maureen Cummins. Drawing on archival resources and historical themes to illuminate contemporary issues, Cummins’ work is a natural fit for our rare book collection and instructional program.

With its warm reds and yellowed paper, Collection: a Collection of Collections documents a personal and unexpected exchange between Cummins and a group of female acquaintances, while the sharp and metallic The/rapist critically examines the work of infamous lobotomist Walter Freeman and his (primarily female) patients. The works capture two very different views of American women’s experiences.

The metal box that houses “The/rapist.”
Detail from “Collection.”








Handwritten text personalizes many of Collection’s stories.

Collection focuses on a series of miniature, hand-painted “Bleeding Hearts of Jesus” that Cummins purchased in the summer of 2013. All presumably painted by one woman in the early 20th century, Cummins sent the painted hearts as Valentine’s cards to other women artists. Their expressive responses to the images motivated Cummins to elicit further stories of “love, longing, or loss” from the women. Precise reproductions of the bleeding hearts accompany the women’s intimate lists and stories—their collections and recollections—in their own words.

A series of concentric circles obscure patient identities, and recalls the impact of the violent procedure.

The/rapist, composed on aluminum and encased in its own metal box, weighs over ten pounds. Its unique format and composition make it one of the few books in our collection to require cotton gloves for handling (its disturbing subject matter makes it one of the few books in our collection that you might not want to touch with your own bare hands…). Cummins cut progressively smaller holes into each “page” of the book, boring deeper into the history of Walter Freeman’s work and into images of female patients–many of the portraits gleaned from Freeman’s own textbook. It is a chilling reflection on a violent medical procedure, Freeman’s misuse of medical authority, and the tragedy of the 3,000-plus patients whose purported mental illness he “treated” by inserting a surgical instrument into their brains–via their eye sockets.

Though both books are available to researchers in the Special Collections and Archives (SPCA) reading room, they were acquired specifically as teaching resources. Each year SPCA works directly with DePaul faculty members to introduce entire classes of students to primary source research, or to archival and rare book sources on a variety of historical and contemporary topics. Cummins’ works will have a natural place in any of our instruction sessions that feature books and archival resources documenting women’s and gender issues, or discussing book arts and artists’ books.

Explore these two incredible works—or Cummins’ other titles–by visiting Special Collections and Archives in room 314 of the John T. Richardson Library, or contact us at For more information on teaching with these or other SPCA materials, please contact Morgen Macintosh Hodgetts, or submit a request for instruction.

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