Bookmarking Book Art — Thomas Wightman

Derailing My Train of Thought, Thomas Wightman

Update:  TW’s latest work.

If it’s didactic, is it art?    By his own words, Thomas Wightman’s bookworks are intended as a vehicle for a message.

This project was to describe aspects of my final year project theme and primary research made so far as a ‘vehicle’.  …  My major project theme is Addiction, primarily looking at obsessive driven addictions. … The book firstly is closed hiding the addiction from view in the same manner as those who hide these addictions from loved ones and friends. … when the book is opened it reveals the chaotic emotions felt. Panic attacks are … associated with Obsessive Compulsive disorder and I … convey this through the metaphor of a sinking ship in a vortex …. Also the symptoms of a panic attack include loss of breath in the same way as drowning in water. …  a tethered anchor and a typographic rope show these problems can be solved and the ship can be salvaged in the same way as those who suffer from OCD when they receive proper treatment.

Drowning from Obsession,  Thomas Wightman
Drowning from Obsession, Thomas Wightman

His next work continues the message with different metaphors.  Its title “Plagued by Doubt” is a phrase repeated by an OCD sufferer, and Wightman has created a spiraling cutout of the repeated phrase and positioned it over the moth-eaten hole in the book.

Plagued by Doubt, Thomas Wightman
Plagued by Doubt, Thomas Wightman

This work is simultaneously delicate and ominous, perhaps more so than the first effort.  Wightman’s skill is on a par with that of the mystery sculptress of Edinburgh, but are these message-bearing works of book art as deeply artistic?  Once the metaphoric lock has been unpicked, is there an urge to unpick it again?  Like Joseph Cornell’s boxes, do the works warrant revisiting again and again?

If didacticism in art is in resurgence, these two bookworks make an impressive contribution, but just perhaps, they are more than that.

Related articles:

More Than Just Didactic Art

Art Bras Bring Attention to Women’s Health Issues

The Art of Public Health

Health Problems? Art Cures All

Book Artists “Reassemble” Baghdad’s Bombed Books: “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” An Exhibition at the San Francisco Center for the Book Now Through May 11, 2013 (

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