Brian Dettmer's Book Dissections

Let's play word association! If I say dissection what words come to your mind?

If you're anything like me it will be something like "biology lesson" and "yuk". Or, at least that would have been the case until a few months ago when I first encountered Brian Dettmer's three-dimensional book sculptures which he creates by dissecting his way through books to display their inner beauty. Working only with books that are no longer wanted such as old encyclopedias that are headed for the junk heap, Brian, with the help of just a knife, tweezers and a bit of glue and varnish, carves away the layers to reveal the book's inner beauty.

Here are a couple of his works based on single books:

Brian Dettmer Eye Surgery Brian Dettmer Atlas de Biologia


Brian uses clamps, weights, rope and sometimes wire to hold the book in place. He then brushes varnish on the outside to create a solid form to carve into, leaving the pages inside independent from each other. Apparently he does little in the way of planning before starting work on a sculpture which means that once he starts to carve, the only way he knows whether to stick with the page he's on or to dig deeper is just to keep on carving. This means that every single work is unique, even though they may have started with the same book.

This 60 second video consisting of 1440 still images shows the process in action.




Here are two more of Brian's single book sculptures; this time created from wallpaper sample books!

Brian Dettmer Me Can Collectk Brian Dettmer Europa Samples



For some of his sculptures, Brian removes the cover of the book and binds the book into a loop before varnishing. As Brian says, "This is to break away from the front and back linear path a book's form dictates and to put the information into a continuous loop. It takes several steps to get them to this point but the idea is to expand the form of the book as much as possible while introducing additional materials as little as possible. I think of the format becoming a loop or insular system but also receding into the wooden forms the material first came from."
Brian Dettmer Consumption Drains Dreams Brian Dettmer single book sculpture


Here are a couple of Brian's larger works, each created from a set of encyclopedias.

Brian Dettmer encyclopedia sculpture
Brian Dettmer encyclopedia sculpture

And lastly, a couple more projects to blow your mind, the first made out of an atlas and the second something a little different - a sculpture made from old VHS tapes...

Brian Dettmer Consumption Drains Dreams Brian Dettmer single book sculpture


Brian's pieces start at about $4000 and can only be purchased through galleries. If you want to know more visit briandettmer.com which includes a list of galleries that currently or have recently shown his work. I also recommend this video in which he talks about his work:

Images copyrighted by Brian Dettmer and reproduced with his permission.

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