It is one thing to be a great artist in a standard media: a sculptor, painter, or photographer. It is another thing altogether (i.e. even more impressive) to be an artist in a media or technique that you have pioneered yourself. To take an everyday object or material that is not traditionally used in art and turn it into something different, beautiful, and contemplative is the ultimate creative coup.
This is why we are so into Math Monahan (other than the facts that his name is Math and that he happens to live in Boston, of course), and specifically his Specimen series. The entire set--comprised of "sculptures" of ambiguous sea creatures and micro-organisms--is made by manipulating the pages of intact books.
Monahan's explanation for the series centers on his view that books are figurative organisms-of-sorts themselves, or as he puts it on his website: "[The book] lived, spread all over the world and, some would consider, is endangered today. These creatures have a life of their own ... This series studies those primordial creatures that became the developed beings colonizing our homes and libraries. By looking at growth patterns, mutations, and morphological similarities we can better understand this animal's rise in population for so many years, as well as its current decline toward extinction."
Also interesting and a bit counter-intuitive is that Monahan chose the books he used in the series without regard to their content. Instead, he looked at them as purely physical forms, and interpreted the text as texture (as he explained further to the blog Books-on-Books), hoping that the viewer would resist the temptation to begin reading the pages and instead view each work as a whole.
If you're as intrigued as we are, Monahan is represented by Webster & Company in the Boston Design Center.
All images via Math Monahan