Thursday , April 18 2024
Transforming a discarded book into a brilliant, permanent work of art proves a dramatic display of skill, artistry and vision.

Book Review ‘Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed’ by Laura Heyenga, Brian Dettmer and Alyson Kuhn

Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed will likely transform your appreciation of books … books as art objects. This surprising anthology brims with charming, pure art, created by hands and tools. The spirit of magical realism is alive as characters are literally lifted out of books through delicate carving. Some are carved, some are books embellished with light, wire or glass. The stunning result is a recurring delight; and our appreciation grows each time we consider the delicate artistry and spirit in the objects.

There is unmistakable joy of the creation of these altered books; a fairly recent modern form of art. The process, known since the 18th century in England has become more appreciated today when outdated reference books can see new life as treasured, whimsical, works of art.

In the book’s Preface by artist Brian Dettmer, he speaks of his joy in cutting around a landscape in an old book and finding another image emerge a few pages down. To him, the carving was like reading; never knowing what would come next. And he was making something relevant out of discarded material.

Throughout Art Made From Books, faces leap out in stunning portraits, especially intriguing when we realize the faces are carved into old telephone books! Page fragments, crimped, curled or scrolled, find new life in new forms.

The book’s introduction, by Alyson Kuhn, reminds us that an original book structure can become a window, a frame or a stage. As artists reinterpret a book, its form changes, and in some newly created object from old books, she says: “The words we cannot read cast a petaled or plumaged shadow on the endpapers.”

Transforming a discarded book into a brilliant, permanent work of art is a dramatic display of skill, artistry and vision. It must be a thrilling labor of love for these talented artists.

Admirers of both art and books will be inspired to get crafty with obsolete tomes or follow the whimsy of the 25 creative artists who expand the meaning and context of books with their enchanting visual creations. Seeing photos of some artist’s studios, tools and process details adds clarity and insight for those interested in trying this unique mixed media art form.

Chronicle Books is known for innovation and high quality. With Art Made From Books they have reached new heights for readers with this lovely volume celebrating the beauty, joy, and the passion of artistry. This book itself is a joy to hold, with a stitched binding and exposed spine. It is a work of art, manufactured on heavy paper, in full color, with museum quality photos. A book that most surely will inspire others to appreciate and create delightful altered books.

About Helen Gallagher