They stalk books with X-Acto knives, tiny sandblasters, glue, paint, scissor, and a shared obsession for giving new form to old things. The resulting sculptures, as pictured in the upcoming Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved and Transformed (Chronicle Books), extend the shelf life for phone books, encyclopedias, pulp fiction and fairy tales. Instead of winding up in the landfill, ink-on-paper artifacts can now be rejiggered as astonishing text objects that have nothing to do with words.
“There’s been a huge proliferation of artists who are interested in the book as a medium,” says Alyson Kuhn, who authored the introduction to Art Made From Books. “Some of these artists are making comments about the role of reading in contemporary culture, others find that books are a handy art form. They see books as a backdrop for their creativity.”
Many “altered book” practitioners cut, snip and gouge with surgical precision. For example, the woman known as “Anonymous” crafts intricate miniaturist tableaux, like the one pictured below, that literally jump off the page. But when her work first gained traction via Twitter in 2011, some traditionalists sounded sour notes. Kuhn told Co.Create. “This is a somewhat controversial practice because there are people who think of it as vandalizing books,” she said. “But Anonymous is obsessed by her love of books. Anonymous wasn’t looking for recognition or compensation. She was creating this ode to the book.”
Art Made From Books, edited by Laura Heyenga, demonstrates how obsolete books can now serve sculptors as a 21st-century equivalent to marble or molding clay. Kuhn points out that, “The information is outdated, the paper is probably yellowed or worse, so the fact that a book can become something charming and creative and valuable in a new light is kind of great.”
[Images courtesy of Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed | compiled by Laura Heyenga | published by Chronicle Books 2013]