Thursday, July 1, 2010

Language Arts

Do you want to bring out my inner Ninja?
Well, do ya, punk?
Then show me a damaged library book. One your dog used as a chew toy. One you accidentally dropped in the bathtub. Or one you carried in your backpack for three miles before you realized your Arizona Tea was leaking all over it.
Show me, and then run. I'll even give you a small head start.

We library types don't cotton to book damage.

But what about damaging books in the name of art? Old, discarded, weeded, it a shame to destroy them? Vandalism as transcendence: let's explore this idea a little.
In his series entitled "What Have We Become?" Nicholas Galanin carves ghostly portraits out of books.

Thomas Allen creates pieces with tongue-in-cheek noir by cutting up covers of pulp fiction:

While Brian Dettmer wields a scalpel to devastating effect to carve these intricate, incredible Book Autopsies:

Su Blackwell creates dioramic visions of pure fairy-tale magic.

Mike Stilkey began using books as an art medium by drawing and painting on old book pages. Eventually, he began to use the covers and spines, as well. Visit his site to be floored by his odd, dreamlike whimsy.
Cara Barer

and Jacqueline Rush Lee

are doing amazing sculptural work.

There are people who think it's a sin to destroy a book. But books, to me, are not sacred cows. While it steams me to see a book willfully or carelessly damaged, what these artists are doing is in a whole other league. Books aren't sacred, but Art is. Ideas are. Imagination is. These old books, in these loving hands, aren't being ruined. They are being reincarnated. They are evolving.
What do you think?


  1. I agree with you Bookjones! Incidentally, I am sitting here eating thai noodles. They are delicious, but I'm not sure what I'm enjoying more-the noodles or your beautiful post.

  2. Chicken, that IS a tough question. Would you like to use one of your lifelines? Perhaps phone a friend or poll the audience?