Books contain fantastical stories, vast histories, and profound knowledge. However, with the predominance of e-books, it's easy to forget about the physical form of novels. San Francisco-based artist Alexis Arnold has spent 9 years exploring the malleability of printed media by transforming them into glittering, crystallized sculptures.
“My Crystallized Books Series addresses the materiality versus the text or content of the book,” Arnold explains to My Modern Met. She warps the pages and covers of books with water, then applies a borax solution to grow crystals all over the book—freezing it in place and rendering it nonfunctional. “The crystals remove the text and solidify the books into geological sculptures,” she continues.
Arnold has manipulated famous books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Moby Dick, and The Three Musketeers, as well as reference texts like the Smithsonian Nature Guide: Rocks and Minerals. Each book's unique characteristics—cover, page number, illustrations—are emphasized when it is congealed by the borax solution. Some sculptures appear more colorful and flamboyant, others are unwieldy with stacks of hardened pages.
“Books hold a great significance as objects, stories, teachings, memories, and more, so they were ripe for investigation with the process of crystal growth I'd been exploring on different objects,” Arnold says. She was prompted to begin the series in 2011, during the surge of e-books. During this time, the artist came across dozens of abandoned paperbacks and hardcovers and used them as experiments for the effects of crystal growth. Arnold realized that the process transformed books—which are valuable in their reusability—into purely decorative, aesthetic artifacts. Instead of illuminating text and great stories, these geological sculptures contain a “history of time, use, and memories.” Arnold's series equalizes renowned titles and defunct phone books as inoperative, beautiful objects.
Scroll down to see more contemporary sculptures from Arnold's Crystallized Books series and follow the artist on Instagram to keep up to date with her latest creations.