Digging Into a Good Book

Turning books into art isn't such an outlandish idea -- most spend 99 percent of their lives propped on shelves like forgotten objets d'art, pointlessly awaiting the return of a reader. But what artist Brian Dettmer does to his is mind-blowing. He excavates what lies beneath the covers, exposing layers of information as if they're strata of lost worlds. Using a sharp knife, he dissects, front to back, illustration-heavy old books like textbooks, atlases, encyclopedias, medical guides, and science books. He'll carve around images he likes, digging deeper until his canvas is transformed into a topographically rich, delicate collage -- it's a little like he's flipped open a secret panel and exposed the inner workings of a book. In his untitled solo show, he also transforms other media into sculpture. In Gone With the Wind, he took a videotape of the movie, melted it, and created a tree, and in Deer Skull, he did frightening things to cassette tapes of musicians like Patsy Cline and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

 
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