Machines by James Allen -SOLD!


An altered book or “book excavation” project by James Allen.

James tells us, "I created this book excavation using a book from the Life Science Library series Machines published in 1980. All the different machines to come together to create a convoluted Rube Goldberg type contraption. Toward the bottom we see a Da Vinci drawing of the chariot wheels with blades coming out of the center axle just on the other side of a wall separating them from a series of train carts full of Victorians in top hats. Meanwhile, at the top of the work, we see the half smile of a man's head outside of a sweatshop floor full of children at work in a textile mill. I added a bit of gold leaf to accentuate the top border of this piece." Must see TV! Oregon Art Beat, a weekly arts program on Oregon Public Broadcasting, has a fascinating segment about James Allen and his book excavations. Great video showing the process behind his art, in an in-depth, accessible manner. Watch it here.


A book excavation is a sculptural work of art made by transforming various types of old books using precise cuts with a scalpel or knife, carving pages one by one until an astonishing new composition reveals itself. This almost surgical focus of dissecting books results in a wholly new object infused with a graphical history that evolves as the artist exposes each layer of the book while cutting around interesting images or text. For most artists working in this remarkable medium, the process is performed without pre-planning or mapping out the contents before cutting into the books pages and/or covers. Finished book excavations often appear as cross sections of the book, carved to create an alternate universe previously hidden between the covers.

Artist Bio

James Allen was born in 1977 in Great Lakes, Illinois and currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon.  He earned a BFA from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in 2000. Allen's artwork is included in Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed published by Chronicle book (August 2013). His work was exhibited at the Bellevue Arts Museum in The Book Borrowers: Contemporary Artists Transforming the Book in 2009.  He's also exhibited across the country in many cities including New York, Chicago, and Miami.