fbpx

Artist Reading List: Cauleen Smith's "Loaner Library"

Explore texts that inspire Smith's practice

Cauleen Smith, Parable of the Sower from the series BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019, 2019; © Cauleen Smith; photo: Tom Van Eynde; courtesy the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago
Cauleen Smith, Monument Eternal from the series BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019, 2019; © Cauleen Smith; photo: Tom Van Eynde; courtesy the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago

Cauleen Smith, The Combahee River Collective Statement from the series BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019, 2019; © Cauleen Smith; photo: Tom Van Eynde; courtesy the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago
Cauleen Smith, The Origin of Others from the series BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019, 2019; © Cauleen Smith; photo: Tom Van Eynde; courtesy the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago
Cauleen Smith, BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019 video bibliography 2019 (installation view, SFMOMA); © Cauleen Smith; courtesy the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago

In 2019, California artist Cauleen Smith created a body of works on paper and a related short video piece, BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019 video bibliography, that draws inspiration from the cover art of key publications. “I wanted these books to be noticed,” the artist reflected on her graphite and gouache reproductions in this series and her earlier Human Reading List 3.0 (2015). “And in our photo-saturated world, drawing them slowed people down and invited renewed interest.”

Presented in Future Histories: Theaster Gates and Cauleen Smith, the two-minute video shot in Smith’s studio features the artist holding each drawing up to the camera. This “loaner library” spans a range of publications including literary works by Octavia E. Butler, Saidiya Hartman, and Toni Morrison, along with books gifted to Smith by friends. Some, Smith says, have been particularly inspiring for her interdisciplinary artistic practice: “I feel like I’m finding instructions for how to make work,” the artist said of texts by Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda and the Combahee River Collective, which are key references in her film installation Sojourner (2018)

Below, browse the full list of titles featured in BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019 (2019). You can see the artist’s related video in Future Histories: Theaster Gates and Cauleen Smith on view through July 18, 2021.

Featured Titles

  • Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, Thought-Forms, 1901
  • Dionne Brand, At the Full and Change of the Moon, 1999
  • Dionne Brand, Land to Light On, 1997
  • Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging, 2001
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, Riot, 1969
  • Tisa Bryant, Unexplained Presence, 2007
  • Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower, 1993
  • Kathleen Collins, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, 2016
  • Combahee River Collective, The Combahee River Collective Statement: Black Feminist Organizing in the Seventies and Eighties, 1986
  • Samuel R. Delany, The Mad Man, 1994
  • Fred H. Detmers, American Cinematographer Manual (6th ed.), 1986
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952
  • Wendy Makoons Geniusz, Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive: Decolonizing Botanical Anishinaabe Teachings, 2009
  • Marcel Griaule, Conversations with Ogotemmêli: An Introduction to Dogon Religious Ideas, 1948
  • Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route, 2006
  • Rob Herwig, 128 Houseplants You Can Grow, 1974
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” 2018
  • Jaime Jiménez, Juguetes: A Photo-Documentary of Traditional Toys and Games from the Dominican Republic, 2005
  • Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, 2013
  • Jethro Kloss, Back to Eden: The Classic Guide to Herbal Medicine, Natural Foods and Home Remedies since 1939, 1939
  • Norio Kobayashi, Bonsai: Miniature Potted Trees (Tourist Library #13), 1952
  • Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers, 1994
  • Camara Laye, The Radiance of the King, 1954
  • Katherine McKittrick, ed., Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis, 2014
  • Charles Mingus, Beneath the Underdog: His World as Composed by Mingus, 1971
  • Trinh T. Minh-ha, When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender, and Cultural Politics, 1991
  • Toni Morrison, The Origin of Others, 2017
  • Toni Morrison, Sula, 1973
  • Julius K. Nyerere, Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism, 1968
  • Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, 1974
  • John Peterson, High-Flying Kites, 1969
  • Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, 1983
  • Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, 2016
  • Hortense J. Spillers, Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, 2003
  • Robert Stone, Day Hikes around Los Angeles: 160 Great Hikes, 2015
  • Jean Toomer, Cane, 1923
  • Sanzo Wada, A Dictionary of Color Combinations, 2010
  • Grace B. Ward and Onas M. Ward, Colorful Desert Wildflowers: California and Arizona, 1978