Doctor Frankensteins I Can Get Behind

I’m a huge art and design geek, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me (or at least has read my bio on this blog), since my previous career path was architecture. This visually stunning book-centric artwork was recently brought to my attention over at Oddity Central. Please to enjoy…

“The Book Autopsies Of Brian Dettmer” by Spooky

February 28th, 2011

Brian Dettmer, also known as “The Book Surgeon” uses knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve old dictionaries and encyclopedias into incredible works of art.

Born in 1974, in Chicago, Brian Dettmer studied art at Colombia College, where he focused mainly on painting. During his time working in a signage store, the artist started exploring the relationship between codes, text, language and art. He began producing paintings based on sign language, Braille and Morse Code, then moved on to layered works that involved pasting newspaper and book pages to a canvas, and it was just a matter of time before he would discover the talent he is now renowned for – expert book carving.

The Book Surgeon takes outdated books, dictionaries and encyclopedias that would otherwise end up at a landfill somewhere, and gives them new meaning and the chance at a second life, by carving them into intricate artworks. “Their intended role has decreased or deceased and they often exist simply as symbols of the ideas they represent rather than true conveyors of content. When an object’s intended function is fleeting, the necessity for a new approach to its form and content arises.” Dettmer says, explaining the philosophy behind his work.

Reference works are Brian’s favorite material, because of the rich illustrated content, but regardless of what he works with, he never inserts any new material or move the content of the book around just to make it more interesting. Using his trusty precision tools, he cuts out unwanted content stabilizing what’s left with layers of varnish. In the beginning, Brian Dettmer focused on carving one book at a time, but in recent years his art has become even more ambitious, as he began using sets of books to create the images he desires.

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 1

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 2

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 3

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 4

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 5

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 6

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 7

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 8

Dettmer’s work is definitely autopsy-like, with the pages flayed, separated, and reflected back as you would do to layers of skin, fat, and muscle if you were a coroner. Very cool stuff. And even cooler pieces can be seen over on Brian Dettmer’s personal website! Makes me wish I could afford to buy them all and have my own gallery at home… *dreamy sighs*

Related links directed me over to check out book sculptures from mixed media artist and science enthusiast Julia Field, seen below. Field’s work is scientific in quite a different manner though. The books themselves are used as containers, display cases for her work. The sculptures she makes with the pages appear almost as specimens mounted for display, especially so with the butterflies of the last book. If anyone is looking to get me a birthday gift (it’s April 21st so go ahead and mark your calendars!), her piece “Los Egipcios” is right up my alley…and her Etsy shop is open for business!

Julia Field Book Carvings 1a
Julia Field Book Carvings 1b

Julia Field Book Carvings 2a
Julia Field Book Carvings 2b

Julia Field Book Carvings 3a
Julia Field Book Carvings 3b

Julia Field Book Carvings 4a
Julia Field Book Carvings 4b

Julia Field Book Carvings 5a
Julia Field Book Carvings 5b

Yet another link over there directed me to the work of Long Bin-Chen, who is a phone book sculptor in quite a literal sense — those typically-discarded phonebooks are his medium in the same way that marble or clay would be for more typical sculptors. Check out these cool photos of him in action:

Long Bin Chen Book Carvings 1

Long Bin Chen Book Carvings 2

Long Bin Chen Book Carvings 3

Long Bin Chen Book Carvings 4

Long Bin Chen Book Carvings 5

Long Bin Chen Book Carvings 6

Long Bin Chen Book Carvings 7

Now these phone book sculptures aren’t exactly the kind of thing I would want in my house. I’d probably set one up on a Lazy Susan so I could spin it around and revel in its construction…and then it would spin out of control, shoot off said Lazy Susan, and land smack-dab in whatever messy wetness (I’m thinking pudding) happened to be lying around. The other artwork is just the right amount of stationary (haha…oh puns) for me!

Bin-Chen is clearly making the most of this recycling craze, stacking up at least 4 or 5 discarded phone books for each head he carves! And finally, last but not least is another phone book artist, this one named Alex Queral, who uses one phone book to frame a portrait he carves of a famous person. Samples of his work are shown below:

Alex Queral Book Carvings 3 Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, kind of looks like Sigmund Freud to me. I wonder what Freud would say about that? Also, if Queral ever does get around to doing a Freud carving...I hope it's filed not under F but in the sketchy phone-sex ad pages. Oh baby, oh baby.


Alex Queral Book Carvings 5 Rodney Dangerfield

Rodney Dangerfield: "I don't get no respect!"


Alex Queral Book Carvings 4 Pee Wee Herman

Pee Wee Herman


Alex Queral Book Carvings 2a Albert Einstein

Alex Queral Book Carvings 2b Albert Einstein

This is Albert Einstein...if he went time-traveling to the present, got arrested, and this were his mug shot photo. Man, he looks rough.

Alex Queral Book Carvings 1 Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood

My personal favorite from Queral’s website is the carving he did of Frank Sinatra, if only because he altered the phone book’s upper right-hand corner directory heading to read: “His-Way.”

Please note that all these photos are courtesy of Oddity Central, because images from the artists’ personal websites were copyrighted and thus not available for me to borrow. For that reason, I highly suggest you check out the artists’ websites themselves, because I was unable to re-post some of the most fascinatingly beautiful pieces here on my blog.

If you see any cool bookish or librarian-related artwork in your travels, please do give me a shout. I love this kind of thing. It gets my creative juices flowing!

(P.S. Bonus points to anyone who read the title of this blog post and pronounced it “FRONK-EN-STEEN”! I heart you in my geekiest of geeky places.)

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