Artist of the Week: Sculptural book art by Brian Dettmer

“Things you think are obvious often aren’t, text you thought explained something doesn’t even get read, and generally speaking users do things they weren’t supposed to do. Even if the only user testing you ever do is asking some friends to use a site while you observe them, you’ll already be better for it.”

– Collis Ta’eed

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You can call Brian Dettmer a marvelous sculptor, a one of a kind artist, a genius of the highest level, but I think book worm fits him best. Brian is a New York based artist, born in 1974 in Naperville, Illinois, and for the past decade or so, he has amazed the world with his beautiful sculptural books. Yes, you read it right. He sculpts books.

His work has been featured on The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Chicago Tribune, Wired, Esquire, and many others. “The age of information in physical form is waning. As intangible routes thrive with quicker fluidity, material and history are being lost, slipping and eroding into the ether. Newer media swiftly flips forms, unrestricted by the weight of material and the responsibility of history. In the tangible world we are left with a frozen material but in the intangible world we may be left with nothing. History is lost as formats change from physical stability to digital distress.”

I think I made you curious enough, so lets stop with the chit-chat and let’s get inspired.

1. The Tower of Books


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“The richness and depth of the book is universally respected yet often undiscovered as the monopoly of the form and relevance of the information fades over time. The book’s intended function has decreased and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. By altering physical forms of information and shifting preconceived functions, new and unexpected roles emerge. This is the area I currently operate in. Through meticulous excavation or concise alteration I edit or dissect communicative objects or systems such as books, maps, tapes and other media. The medium’s role transforms. Its content is recontextualized and new meanings or interpretations emerge.”


It is a little bit terrifying and comforting at the same time. Terrifying because of the grandeur it represents, of the greatness that it expresses, and how books withstand the test of time; comforting because it teaches future generations not to make past mistakes, and reassures you that there is a solution to everything. Even in the darkest night, at the darkest hour you have a chance to overcome “evil”. It gives you an eerie feeling of peace.

2. Humanity


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“In this work I begin with an existing book and seal its edges, creating an enclosed vessel full of unearthed potential. I cut into the surface of the book and dissect through it from the front. I work with knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve one page at a time, exposing each layer while cutting around ideas and images of interest. Nothing inside the books is relocated or implanted, only removed. Images and ideas are revealed to expose alternate histories and memories. My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception.”


Brian is a book surgeon – he ends up saving our souls from our art cravings. By destroying something, he reshapes it, and turns it into something new. That’s what humanity is all about, isn’t it? That’s how we managed to thrive technologically. We transform metals for our well being, we morph liquids for our own satisfaction, we even try to recreate, artificially of course, the human body. Unfortunately, we try to be masters of entropy, when we should focus on other important things like equality, ending world hunger, and alleviating the problems of the poor. Brian seems to see humanities flaws – only if he had a solution to them.

3. A world beneath


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Is this a take on nature? I think it is. Is nature hiding from us? It should. We are chopping down forests at a terrifying rate, and we have no plans on stopping anytime soon. According to a report fromthe U.N International Panel Climate Change, humans are 98.99% to blame for climate change.



We are destroying our world at an alarming rate, our greed for economical and political power never ceases to amaze me. We would rather implode than to shake hands and reach a consensus. We would rather bath in gold flakes than plant trees and stop landslides from occurring. Nature should hide from us. But, come to think of it, nature has this nifty little trick up its sleeve that allows it to bounce back every once in a while, and recreate balance in the world.

4. Complete Yourself



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Complete yourself, do it! There are so many pieces to pick, and so many forms to arrange, and it may seem overwhelming at times, but once you find a pattern and stick to it, you may find that the thing that you were looking for, was in front of you all along. You may fail along your way, your pieces could not fit, but that doesn’t mean you should spiral towards insanity and leave it all shattered, it means that you know what path you should not go. It means that you have experienced something, and you should learn from it. The only one that keeps you from doing what you like is only you.


Hope you enjoyed the ride – we sure did! If you developed feelings towards this mans beautiful art, you should go and check his website; it’s filled with exhibition dates, art galleries, videos and his bibliography. If you found a sculptural book art from Brian that didn’t made our list, please feel free to post in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you!

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