Stories make you experience life twice – once in the moment and then in the retrospect. Born out of retrospect, artist Jodi Harvey Brown’s book sculptures are gripping, to say the least, as they emerge directly from the pages of books, in full 3D.
The destruction of a book is considered sacrilege by many, but for paper artist and sculptor, Jodi Harvey Brown, slicing through the cover of a book and its pages is an extra ordinary way of showing her creativity. Art translates into an epitome of inspiration when one is able to bend things most people see as a straight line.
Remodelling the pages of books and sculpting out scenes from them, Jodi not only accomplishes the objective of art – but even transcends it. Her sculptures arise from the centre of the book and manifest themselves as important slices of the story; these hold your attention with the same intensity as the sequence of words framed in the book.
Depicting scenes from the literary world, Pennsylvania based artist Jodi Brown, clubbed her twin passions for art and books in a magnificent new medium five years ago, giving rise to splendid book sculptures. It all started when Jodi was unable to resist a box of used books at a second hand shop. She shares, “It started purely by chance. A book tucked in the bottom of the box had been crushed by the others. I started folding the pages to create a design and was very happy with the end result”.
Each of Jodi’s pieces transforms the viewer’s perception of the book. Inspired by the matter in the books, she carves around the images and words nestling between the covers. The process is completely subtractive and everything you see is exactly where it had been in the book. She sculpts away everything else that is not in her scheme of things.
Walking us through her tedious process, Jodi tells us, “My process varies from piece to piece. If I’m creating a sculpture for myself I don’t usually begin with a plan. If I’m working for a client, it is as per a design process.” Each piece combines the hand cutting, folding and scoring of paper that is further worked upon to create patterned and textured surfaces. They are then used to build scenes which are often complex and consist of multiple layers.
“I didn’t go out to purchase special tools to create them. I typically only use knives and scissors and occasionally wires to help the sculptures support themselves,” shares Jodi. This implies that each of her works is truly individual and no two pieces are the same. Influenced by the literary world, all of her creations are manipulated to become intriguing pieces of art providing a glimpse into another world of fiction and fairy-tales. “It’s amazing to see a child who isn’t fond of reading, ‘see’ the story in a sculpture and want to pick up the book.”
Even though Jodi’s intricate paper sculptures are bold and unfussy, they make a big impact. Being precise and intact is vital in paper sculpting. For a book sculptor, printed paper bears a visible memory because of its malleability to the hand. With each sculpture having a different story to tell, each scene is protected with an ultra violet finish. Some of literature’s most famous characters like Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Bambi have been reborn outside books under her adept hands.
These image-textual solutions created by Jodi, in search of the right balance between readerly and spectatorial simulation constitute some of the most rewarding components of Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows and The Little Mermaid.
Talking about which of her sculptures have garnered the most attention, Jodi says, “It’s hard to say which is the most successful. I believe the fairy-tale themed books get the most attention but ‘Kidnapped’ was my first sculpture to really break out! My favourite is ‘Rose’ which now homes in a museum in Cypress. My son has a love for dragons and helped me design a piece based on them.”
The time spent over each sculpture varies from piece to piece. “The average flower sculpture takes about fifteen minutes. Larger sculptures like ‘Rose’ can take well over hundred hours. If the sculpture requires a motor for lighting, then that adds time. All simple sculptures, however take between twenty to thirty hours.” Currently working on a Star Wars piece, Jodi shares her art at classes, schools, libraries and literacy centres.
Jodi’s art allows for an immediate and intimate encounter; it lends itself as a communally shareable passage to worlds of make believe. Books are beautiful in their own right, but Jodi has managed to improve upon perfection as she goes about creating a host of visual curiosities with nothing else besides, as humble a material as paper.
No story will now lie trapped in the pages of a book, long forgotten in some corner of a bookshelf; thanks to Jodi’s craft it will be possible to experience it now with a mere glance, by one and all.
Text By Kanupriya Pachisia
Photographs Courtesy Jodi Harvey Brown