When Gregory Kammerer goes to large retrospectives of painters like Turner and Homer, he's drawn to the little glass cases, full of pens and sketchbooks. “I think what comes through is an honesty, or lack of self consciousness about what they're doing,” he says of the sketchbooks. “They're suggestive and beautiful in their simplicity.”
It's not surprising, then, that Gregory (who has long blurred the line between painting and sculpture) has created a series of paintings using books as the canvas.
When he first started doing the books, he called them sketchbooks and did not intend for them to be fully developed paintings. Now, some books are used like a panel, while others have hints of text – either visible through the landscape, or left unpainted within the composition.
“I do a lot of sanding, and sometimes I'll go through layers of pages,” Gregory explains. “I have this one painting, titled The Book That Tried to Become a Landscape. When it went from a book to a landscape, it stalled midway. It's half landscape, half words.”
Gregory likes mixing representational landscape with what comes out being more of an abstraction. “I love to show the text, which reminds you it's a book,” he says. “But I can't sacrifice a painting just to have the text show through.”
He finds the books at yard sales and in used book stores, and even when the text isn't visible, he lets the words guide him in the composition.
Gregory was a literature major, so there has always been something about books - the words on the page, the stories, the way it feels to hold them. He's found he's not alone. People who are drawn to books, like the idea of having a book that's been transformed into something else.
Like books, these paintings are meant to be picked up. “They have a tactile quality to them, as opposed to a painting that goes on the wall and stays there,” he says. “They are completely protected. You could spill a cup of coffee on them.”
He won't give away what his process is, but he does say he used to restore wooden boats and learned about materials through that work. When he started exploring using books as a surface for paintings, he tried beeswax as a stiffener, but they didn't hold up. Since then he's found a method that stands up to light, heat and moisture.
“I like doing them so much,” he says. “If I could work that small all the time, I probably would. In some ways, painting small is harder than painting large. My intention is to give the sense of infinite space. When you have a large panel, that's already there. When you have a tiny book, depth is a harder thing to achieve.”
See more of Gregory Kammerer's paintings HERE