December 8, 2015

Book Sculpture (Part I)

        This past weekend I began carving a block designed to keep me busy for a while: the largest block I’ve ever done, and full of tiny intricate details.  After some six hours of carving over the weekend, I’m still not halfway done.  The scene is a bookshelf on which the books are little houses and buildings, inhabited by tiny people, cats, dogs, a dragon…  The idea of the life and magic within books is one I’ve visited before, particularly in my piece The Open Book, and it’s an idea that is also illustrated by book sculptures.
        I admit to a bit of ambivalence about using books as the raw material for sculpture: cutting them up, destroying their content of words, seems like sacrilege.  On the other hand, lots of old books just end up getting thrown away, and it’s certainly far more respectful of them to transform them into a new form of art.  I’m quite tempted to try my hand at the medium myself!
        I won’t be sharing any purely abstract sculptures here.  Some of them are certainly incredible, but for me there’s something much richer about the intertwining of words and pictures, the turning of one storytelling medium into another.  In any case, there is no shortage of artists making cool sculptures out of books, such  that I’m going to have to break up the topic into more than one post.  So here’s a start…
        First, a ship at sea by Emma Taylor.  What I like particularly about this one is the wonderfully wavy pages on which the ship tosses.  Many book sculptures are simply placed atop a flat book surface, but in this one the book really is transforming into the scene, not simply supporting it.
        This scene of books within a book, by Karen Diot, is wonderfully self-referential.  Books, it turns out, make excellent bookshelves.  But I also like the idea of a book as a window, and in this example the light emphasizes the open window within the open book.
        Perhaps the coolest story about book sculptures is that of the eleven mysterious works of art left hidden around literary landmarks in Edinburgh in 2011.  The anonymous artist has never been discovered, and each sculpture was accompanied by a note “in support of libraries, books, words, ideas.”  Here’s an article outlining the whole mysterious, magical story.  This ferocious dinosaur shredding out of a book is one of those eleven mystery gifts.
        This Saturday I’ll be participating in the Needham Winter Arts Fest, continuing to carve my big, ambitious block, and continuing to dream about the magic of books and art.

[Pictures: A Ship Sets Sail, book sculpture by Emma Taylor, 2013 (Image from From Within a Book);
The Paper House, book sculpture by Karen Diot (Image from Architecture and Design);
The Lost World, book sculpture by anonymous artist, 2011.]

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