Book Art Inspirations (sort of)

I was searching the internet for this assignment, and I’ve come to the conclusion that very little of what I found will serve as inspiration this semester. For a very simple reason: I can’t match any of this stuff. I found a lot of images of beautiful, awe-inspiring pieces of art. One artist who stuck out in particular was Brian Dettmer. He creates amazing sculptures out of books (sometimes multiple books in one piece) using a myriad of different techniques. My favorite of Dettmer works were created by slicing pages into layers so that particular words stuck out.

Like this:


I think this book art, like a ton of others I found, looks really cool, but I can’t help but think that these are no longer books. It’s this thought that keeps me from wanting to emulate such work. While the source was a book, to me, this is now a sculpture. I’m not interested in being a sculptor. I’m sure that someone who works in a marble quarry doesn’t consider themselves a sculptor, no matter how much they might appreciate the art form. For lack of a better metaphor, I want to work in a book quarry.

I enjoy the utilitarian nature of books, and that they are vessels that hold information. You certainly wouldn’t throw any of these pieces of art in a bag to take to the beach, and these are no longer just containers. They are now the art itself. So, while I find these works aesthetically pleasing and wonderful, I don’t think that I will be striving to emulate any of them.

1 comment
  1. meredithpurvis said:

    This question of book as sculpture/art v. book as book is one we’ll be dealing with all semester.There are different levels and kinds of art in the world of bookmaking. Throughout this course, we’ll see examples from all over the spectrum of book arts. Some, like this beautiful example you found, are really about making the book the piece of art. Others are about enhancing and honoring the content within the book–as we discussed in class, that may be as simple as the difference between a mass market and a trade paper pack. Mass market is made to be a cheap and convenient vessel, not one that lasts or enhances the content or experience of the book. But even a relatively simple trade paperback will be more durable, made of higher quality materials, and more artful in design. As a bookbinder, I struggle with these questions, and though I surely don’t have a final answer, I think that one of the possible goals of making a handmade book is to create a high quality, archival, beautiful exterior that interprets and enhances the text and, one hopes, draws in potential readers. I’m looking forward to discussing this further with you in class!

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