Wk 11 — Artist OTW — Student Choice

Artist: Brian Dettmer

Media: preexisting media, such as old books, maps, record albums, and cassette tapes

Website: https://briandettmer.com/

Instagram: @briandettmerstudio

About the Artist

Brian Dettmer is an American artist who takes outdated media and transforms it into something innovative and intricate. He alters the media in order to create new sculptures. Dettmer has a BA in fine arts from Columbia College in Chicago. He focused on paintings at first and then began to explore the relationship of text, images, language, and codes, including painting based on braille, morse code, and ASL. He was inspired to paste newspapers and book pages onto a canvas and tearing pieces off to leave layers. He then experimented by gluing and cutting into books, which is what he is known for now. His works have been shown internationally in places such as the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York and The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.

Formal Analysis

Dettmer's work looks very complex. Looking at it first, I did not think they were books that were used. If you look more closely at some of his work, you can see that they are book pages that do not seem to be from the same book. He looks for pages in different books and puts them all together to make it work. He also uses the book, not just the pages. He uses the books to give his work a structure, which is a smart thing. It seems that he does not let a single page go to waste and each piece plays a part in the work as a whole. I found a description of the steps of what he does exactly when working on something. He first chooses what books/pages he would like to work with. He determines how exactly he will be altering the pieces he chooses and what he could create. He then begins to remove/expose and seals images/words he wants to use to make his sculpture. He works with knives, tweezers, and surgical tools. A lot of his work is just black and white since that is what most books are printed in but there are a few sculptures that have its colors involved. A lot of his earlier work seems to have more color than his later work.

Content Analysis

Dettmer says “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.” I find it interesting that he is using old work in order to make his artwork. In a way, I think it is good for the environment to see that he is recycling old material but also, he is using people’s scraps to make something amazing. The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” seems to be something that applies here well. He uses existing material which one may see as old and trashy in order to create something complex looking. He wants to show that something that may seem simple can be turned into something amazing. While a book is flat, he brings it to life by carving into it and making it 3D.

Synthesis/My Experience

While looking for an artist to write this about, Dettmer’s work was one that caught my eye right away. At first, I was not aware that I was looking at something made from old books until I read the description and looked more closely. I think it’s so cool how he uses old books in order to make his art. I like the little details he puts into his work because, in the end, the little details make the piece amazing. I like how he said he uses existing material from past creators in order to give his own new message rather than the previous message from what the previous creator may have been trying to get through. Overall, book craving looks like such a complex yet fun thing to do. Making something that is originally seen as 2D and turn to 3D takes serious skill and patience.

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