Whenever I see something about books as objects, as opposed to books as reading material, I think of my friend Vernon Wiering. Vern is one of the most talented people I know: a masterful bookbinder, carpenter, and tailor. At a time when many people, including myself, spend an inordinate amount of time in the virtual world—for work and entertainment and communication—Vern has remained grounded in the physical world of tangible objects.
When Vern was in college, he had his own little cottage industry providing custom-made pants for all of his friends. I still consider the two pairs he made for me twenty years ago the best pants I’ve ever owned (though they stopped fitting me long ago). For his wedding Vern made his own suit, the bride’s dress, all of the groomsmen’s suits, and all of the bridesmaids’ dresses.
He gave up the tailoring gig a while ago, but he has replaced it with other crafts. A walk through Vern’s house is like a trip through a museum. The dining-room table, for example, is a gorgeous work of art that he built and carved with intricate floral designs on its legs. As I write this, Vern is installing a parquet floor in his garage out of wood that he has scavenged over the years.
Vern now works as an independent bookbinder, specializing in antiquarian book restoration for universities, museums, and private book collectors.
So when I read about the art of Brian Dettmer, I immediately thought of Vern. I was going to email him a link to Dettmer’s “altered books,” but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted others to see both of their work.
Dettmer selectively carves portions of pages to reveal astounding three-dimensional collages hidden within a book’s contents. You can see more of his art installation, Altered States (explorations in media modification), at the Aron Packer Gallery web site