Brian Dettmer’s “Altered Books” series of sculptures crafted from a single book or books in a series will alter your relationship with the printed word. The above painstakingly carved, pasted, and re-envisioned book, The Household Physicians, is one of my favorite examples of how Dettmer has given books three-dimentional expression. The books no longer hide their intent in a monotony of lines and pages, passively awaiting a patient reader behind smooth, opaque covers. Rather, the books now highlight their own phrases and connect those ideas to the world of objects, all in styles that speak to and often comment upon the subject matter.
As you browse his collection, question Dettmer’s choices: Why organic shapes for this volume but architectural styling in that series? Is it ironic that either words or pictures are dominating a particular sculpture, or is he playing it straight?
Books act upon readers’ emotional and intellectual lives in powerful ways. But us readers can act upon books in physical ways that range from dog-earring pages to hoarding to burning. Dettmer’s sculptures set books free to act back upon the physical world.