Exhibit Breathes New Life into Old Books at UM Museum, Rowan Oak

Thought-provoking works by Brian Dettmer on view through Aug. 22

A new exhibition of artwork by New York-based artist and book sculptor Brian Dettmer is on display at the University of Mississippi Museum and Rowan Oak through Aug. 22. Dettmer uses books to create sculptures and other forms of media, all without moving or relocating any pages in the volume. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum and Rowan Oak are presenting a new exhibition of artwork by New York-based artist and book sculptor Brian Dettmer this spring and summer. “Hardcovers and Paperbacks is on display through Aug. 22 at both locations.

“Not only is this the first show ever of an internationally-acclaimed artist to be exhibited dually at both the museum and at Rowan Oak, but Brian occupies a position in the art world of a unique technique and approach to sculpting of hardcover books, and the international acclaim that goes with being a pioneer and visionary,” said Robert Saarnio, director of the UM Museum.

Dettmer’s work is a response to the recent cultural shift in the way information is gathered and accessed. He values the book and uses it to explore issues of accessibility, permanence and truth.

The artist uses books, usually retired reference books, to create sculptures and other forms of media, all without moving or relocating any pages in the volume. He begins by sealing the edges of the book and then uses knives and tweezers to carefully carve around images or words he finds interesting and wants to display.

Dettmer describes his work as “both archival and anti-archival,” and that he resurrects the contents of books that would otherwise be thrown away.

“Information is the raw material of today,” the artist said. “We have an overabundance of text and imagery constantly at our fingertips. In digital media, it is often as fleeting as it is abundant.

“Reference books have become almost extinct in less than one generation, and we are at a pivotal time in the way we record and distribute facts.”

His work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Atlanta’s High Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

The UM Museum is at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street. The galleries are open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is always free.

Rowan Oak is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Admission to the house is $5 per person. The Rowan Oak grounds and Bailey Woods Trail are free and open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. 

For more information about upcoming exhibits, events and the permanent collection, visit https://museum.olemiss.edu/ or 662-915-7073.