Tunnel Books

In 2010 I visited the  exhibition Slash: Paper Under the Knife, at the Museum of Art & Design in NYC. The exhibition was wonderful and all the work was…. well, mind blowing! However, it was the work of Romanian artist Andrea Dezsö that really struck a cord with me. Her work contained thirty multi-layered painted and illuminated paper theaters, and she referred to these as “tunnel books”. Ms. Dezsö stated, “cut-paper scenes are arranged in expandable layers, creating a miniature theatre stage for presenting the narratives inside. My tunnel books reveal imagined worlds; scenarios arising from the subconscious, based on my personal experience—physical, psychological, spiritual, and the strange in-betweens; living in my body, in my mind, dreams, memories, and anxieties, hopes, obsessions.” You can see some examples of Ms. Dezsö’s work at at her website!

When I returned home to West Virginia, I thought about introducing these theater-like artworks into one of my future classes at West Liberty University. Tunnel books are made up of  a series of paper or cardboard sheets which stand parallel to one another and are viewed from one end. This “tunnel” or “peephole” book with a set of pages bound with accordions on two sides and viewed through a central opening. Openings are cut in all but the last sheet so that the viewer looks through the layers while seeing parts of each of them.

This past weekend I finally got around to creating my first two tunnel books. Book A is done in acrylics on Strathmore bristol; book B is collage on Strathmore bristol. (I plan to try 140# watercolor paper with my next tunnel book.) The photos that follow are not a step-by-step documentation of my procedure, but I did photograph a few of my steps, as well as my final results.

Drawing and cutting.

I began by cutting bristol board into eight 10″x 11″ sheets, four for each book. I believe Ms. Dezsö’s tunnel books were approximately 8″x 8″. I sketched my design on each sheet, and then cut out the negative space of each of the designs (but not the last page, which remains uncut).

This is page #1 of book A, cut and painted using acrylics.

Page #2 of book A, cut out but painting is unfinished.

Page #3 of book A, cut and painted.

Page #4 of book A, painted. Notice that the last page remains uncut. I eventually added a water tower to this scene.

Once my four pages were completed, I began to create the accordion connectors that would go in between each page.

I attached two accordion pieces to each page of the tunnel book. I made these by cutting 4″x 10″ sheets, folding it, and attaching the 1/2″ folded ends to each page. I used hot glue as a way to save time (I wanted to get these examples done in time for a Monday class), but Elmer’s white glue or an acrylic gel medium would work well.

Starting with the last page, I began attaching the accordion pieces to the left and right edges of the page.

Here is a closer look of one of the accordion connectors.

Here I am adding page #3 to page #4.

Here is the nearly complete tunnel book.

Book A complete!

I decided to make my second tunnel book using a collage approach. I began book B by cutting out a diver from an old swimming suit magazine ad.

Swimmer cut from vintage magazine.

Here is page #2 of book B, pre-cut, edges painted, and awaiting the attachment of the swimmer.

Book B, almost complete.

Book B, collage on bristol board.

I had to experiment with the accordion sections that go between each page. My first accordions were cut from paper that was too light, and unable to keep my book open. I used chip board the second time, but that proved to be too thick and heavy. For my third try, I cut up some old paintings done on 140# watercolor paper, and these seemed to work.

(WLU Crafts class students: these are the tunnel books I presented for discussion this past Monday. I hope to post YOUR results in the next couple weeks.)


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