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A Book Surgeon – Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer is a sculptor, or to say more precisely, a “book carver” who uses toss away books (largely dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, science and engineering books, art books, and history books.  Although he does explore other communication media such as cassette tapes) to create detailed, jaw-dropping, book sculptures. Art critics call him “book surgeon”, because of his precision and patience. Through his art he explores relationship between, text, images, and language, and deals with such themes as language, culture, and history.groller, carved bookIn this piece titled “Groller” Brian Dettmer uses vertically stacked encyclopedias to carve out the head portrait of himself.  Every book we read and explore shapes us in a certain way.  We grow in knowledge from what type information we consume and what we take to heart. With this piece Brian Dettmer tries to establish this concept about branches, altered bookaltered book, Encyclopedias of World Travel,World Books, book surgery

I am fascinated with his art because of the detailed approach he takes to redefine the meaning of the objects by carving or unearthing the hidden treasures between the pages.  He thoroughly explores the pages of the text to find a theme or tone on which to base his work on.  Then he takes the blades and clamps and slices the pages to get rid of the parts he doesn’t want, and seals the edges of the books to ensure precision, which also makes the pages look like sanded piece of wood.

The difficulty with this approach of sculpture making is that you have to envision the sculpted figure between the pages prior to dicing it, or else if , say, the head is too big, well, it wont fit between the pages. It is the same way as rock sculptures are made. Having a great idea isn’t enough to accomplish this labor intensive work, you have to be skilled. This craft requires you to be knowledgeable, patient, and masterfully skilled, or else your brilliant sculpture idea would remain brilliant in your head and a disaster in production.

You can enjoy Brian Dettmer’s full work at



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