Bookmarks: Thomas Wightman

artist book: a work of art realized in the form of a book.

The definition may sound simple, but the world of artist books can be a bewildering place. From the familiar pairing of images and text, to sculptures created out of paper and complicated bindings that create a performance each time the book is opened, nearly anything can be called an artist book if there is intention and consideration. This series showcases artists from different realms of the art world exploring the structure and meaning of the book.

Thomas Wightman’s intricate book sculptures are inspired by emotions brought on by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Wightman uses common expressions related to depression and anxiety for his titles, incorporating the physical words into the sculpture itself. The numerous hours Wightman spent on each sculpture in order to achieve such detailed and delicate work could be considered its own kind of obsessive behavior. Using the book as his sculpture medium, Wightman suggests that each person has their own story to tell about their unique and complex experiences with the disorder. The sculptures use the entirety of the book, including the covers and spine. Wightman has given a physical form to these intangible thoughts and feelings, spilling out beyond the pages of the open book.

Drowning by Obsession (detail)

The book sculpture ”Drowning From Obsession” was made to convey my theme of obsession in the form of a vehicle: creating a paper boat that sail the edges of a book which, when opened, reveal a cut-out vortex of OCD inside, an experience not dissimilar to drowning, but a tethered anchor represents the truth that there’s always a way out.

Drowning by Obsession

“Plagued by Doubt” illustrates the need for those with OCD to repeatedly seek reassurance. I wanted to convey this idea by making a plague of insects. I decided on moths because I wanted to suggest that the book has been hidden and left, and the moths have eaten away at the pages of the book. This shows that if you don’t seek treatment for OCD, it can become both physically and mentally damaging. Also, typography was used to show the idea that these moths have made a nest within the book—representative of the fact that OCD is usually with a person for life. It lives within and is not noticed until the book is opened, releasing the moths and solving the problem to demonstrate that with proper help, OCD can be treated.

Plagued by Doubt

Plagued by Doubt (detail)

Like the previous two sculptures, “Derailing My Train of Thought” uses a visual metaphor to convey the emotions of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and embodies my research by visualizing an expression used by a sufferer of OCD. The expression was ‘derailing my train of thought’, because the person felt that the rituals they had to perform were disrupting their day. Where the compulsions and worry would side track them from doing everyday activities.

Derailing My Train of Thought

Derailing My Train of Thought (detail)