Meet Lubbock artist Jonathan Whitfill, friend to many in the arts community. He wanted to showcase his book wheel pieces and asked us at Stellar Media if we could help him share the story behind them. We jumped at the chance to tackle such a unique project, check out his process and story! While you’re at it go purchase a book wheel for yourself and show your support for his endeavors.
I don't think I will be able to ever forget my first solo show. This show focused primarily on the work I do with discarded books. I was there early, before the gallery had opened. Someone had given me a name tag that I was proudly wearing. I had bathed and looked about as good as I am able. I was looking around the space making sure everything was just right, straight labels, etc.
Before I knew it the doors to the gallery opened, and the first few attendees sauntered in. Within five minutes I overheard a man tell his wife, "just some asshole destroying books…" They quickly walked through the gallery to another show in the back. Suffice it to say, I was more than a little crestfallen. By the end of the show, I remember feeling that it was a good show. Overall, I was received well and even made a few sales - but the comment still stings a bit.
When I was a kid, like maybe 9 years old, we frequented a home were friends with my parents lived - we even moved into the same house a few years later. I don't remember much about our visits, other than Milton, the husband who lived there and my parents were thinking of starting a business together... But, there is a very distinct and clear memory of Milton's bookcase, and inside a very important looking book. I asked him if I could touch it, and he bent over to place his face between me and book and told me very simply, 'no.' The book was far too valuable to be held and possibly spoiled or ripped by the likes of me.
To this day I feel like the spine of the book looked like the book in 'The NeverEnding Story' all covered in precious leather with bronze castings attached, maybe even written with a quill pen. I don't think it was anywhere near that elaborate, but you know how memories work... Milton did tell me the title - The Lord of the Rings. I have my own copy of that same book now on my shelf. It’s covered in leather, but it’s not handwritten in ink. It’s the first memory I have of a book making an intense impression.
It’s important that it is stated that all of these books were withdrawn from a library, thrown in the dumpster, or worse - set to be burned. I do have a struggle at times to make these pieces from these precious objects, and when I'm working I have to remind myself that something is being created from the work that is wholly new and different, and that creation cannot be born without some destruction as well. I'm glad that in some ways, these artful tombs of tomes are covered in resin that will take thousands of years to decompose. Even though the original purpose of the books is no longer being realized, there is a hard copy of the beauty of the covers and the pages coming together in a new way. Like giving a different meaning to the phrase ‘Judging a book by its cover’.
That guy was right, I am destroying books - but I'm not an asshole. I try to preserve every piece of the book as it is being reconfigured. I am the conscientious consumer of the modern discarded book.