Artist Brian Dettmer Carves Old Books into Intricate Narrative Sculptures

by , 02/16/11

Brian Dettmer, Eco art, recycled materials, book art, books, sculpture, Kinz and Tillou Fine Art

Most of Dettmer’s focus is on books, favoring out of date encyclopedias, medical journals, illustration books and dictionaries. He begins carving away arbitrarily at the pages, letting the images reveal themselves as he moves through his process. He seals the edges of the books to ensure precision, which also transforms the splayed edges to look like a smooth and sanded piece of wood.

Carefully extracting bits and pieces, he creates a narrative within the books’ contents, revealing selected sentences and images. The spines are bent and contorted to juxtapose different sections of the books together. No sections are removed or added, Dettmer simply works with the existing structure of each book. The pages and spines are also manipulated to create new sculptural forms. Dettmer also folds, bends, rolls and stacks multiple books to create a variety of forms.

The resulting beautiful sculptures completely reinterpret the original intention of each book. Dettmer seeks to give these forgotten objects new function and meaning. The ideas the books once put forth are reduced to symbols, with Dettmer acting as the new author, offering a new set of ideas and relationships within the covers of each volume.

Dettmer’s messages range from narrative to political, with spiral sculptures of butterflies from a lepidoptery journal,  or a scene of layered illustrated animals from a children’s book. The latter is the subject of a piece called “M.I.A.”, where the artist carefully removed all of the text from a map of the Middle East, his comment on the ignorance of our current political situation.

Dettmer exhibits his sculptures in galleries and museums throughout North America and Europe, breathing new life into media that our fast-paced society has outgrown.


Dettmer’s book art calls attention to the fact that we don’t need to purchase brand new materials to create art – there are tons of (oftentimes free) recycled materials to choose from.

+ Brian Dettmer

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  1. BertieorBirdie July 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    There’s nothing like the relief of finding what you’re lkooing for.

  2. Stafon July 13, 2011 at 6:19 am

    I’ll try to put this to good use immedaeitly.

  3. Saladini July 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Wonderful concept!

  4. bajionline March 2, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    This is amazing, and I love when artists come up with a fun visual use for recycled materials. This is really good!

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