Creating an art piece with a published book as its raw material. This idea has been around for a while, but it has only been in recent decades that the term 'altered book' has come into use, as has the acceptance of this genre into the art world. The approaches to altered books differ in the various artist's craft techniques as well as their conceptualization of what exactly constitutes an altered book. As in any art medium there are almost as many ways of doing it as there are artists creating them.
Turek's technique is in the margins, so to speak, of the dominant trend in altered book art. Most altered book artists will utilize the existing book as a whole as the source material, for them, the pages and their manipulation become the focal point of the piece. Turek's approach is to gut the pages entirely and use only the book's cover, the pages are replaced by a framed box containing the contents of the assemblage. At this point it becomes not so much an altered book but an altered book cover. It turns back into the realm of altered book though, when we consider that the cover's inner liner is almost always re-covered and that the collage elements of the assemblage, illustrations and text, predominantly come from other books.
While AlteredBookArt.com features only Turek's books, his extensive work in boxed assemblage can be seen at BoxedAssemblage.com.
Or you may make the trip to Portland, Maine to visit Turek in his studio, and see the many dimensions of this work, which these photographs cannot capture.
Many of the altered book pieces are still available for sale.
There is no practical space between the covers of a book; it is, after all, filled with pages. Even so, the text and images contained within a book hold the power to open up wide vistas, peek around corners, open cupboard doors and visualize the un-seeable. We have the capacity to conjure ideas of space in our minds and the stories, texts and pictures in books facilitate this process. Every time we open the covers of a book we are prepared to let our minds go places, spaces far distant from the one we physically occupy. Gaston Bachelard, in The Poetics of Space touches on this “imagined vastness” in his piece on “intimate immensity” which, according to him, we can readily access through a daydreamt space.
So, what happens with one of my altered books, gutted of its pages, replaced with a constructed physical space? I think that the unconscious expectations of being led by the text to an imagined space would be momentarily set aback. The unexpected sight of actual space in the book would at first be disorientating. But, we immediately shift to a wondering receptivity of this real space because the content of the assemblage is still akin to the usual contents of a book. I have a reverence for books and the imagining consciousness that they encourage, in fact most of the “things” I place in these booked spaces, the images and texts, come from books. But by presenting a boxed assemblage artwork within the covers of a book the imagined book space and the physical space between the covers create a slight tension, sort of a gentler version of the theoretical meeting of matter and anti-matter.
I’ve always worked by building a con-fusion of disparate elements. And by applying this assemblage technique to books I’ve brought together two distinct forms of space. There is an auditory phenomenon of when two musical notes, a fundamental and it’s harmonic, are sounded simultaneously, a third note is perceived by the listener. Likewise, I think my book assemblage pieces create a third space by bringing the physical and imagined spaces together. I strive to create in my altered book assemblages a qualitative thought process, which takes place in the cracks of language. They convey poetic thought, the place between the words and the things depicted, the minds own architectural space where contemplative thought resides.