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Paper Trail

The beautifully jumbled collage art of Lance Letscher has inspired a variety of equally oddball comments, but we like this one from Bookforum.com best: “If the Book is doomed, it could have no better funeral director than Austin-based artist Lance Letscher. He may be inclined to dismember the deceased, but he’ll leave behind a beautiful corpse.”

Letscher, a University of Texas–educated and multitalented artist, recalls a childhood of drawing inspired by the books and supplies gifted to him by his “frustrated art student” mother. After college, he supervised an on-campus wood shop, where he got into making carvings and furniture-based art. The a-ha moment for his collages came in 1994, when he dabbled with cutting out his own drawings and recombining them and other paper items, Frankenstein’s-monster style, into artwork.

“I’ve always been really interested in old books,” Letscher explains. “The residue of people’s interactions with those books—the little drawings, the wear of their hands on the page, the smudges. There’s this very direct mind-to-mind connection between the book and the person who reads it.” These days, he incorporates everything from recipes, personal letters, sheet music, album covers, and discarded textbooks—many sourced from a favorite Dumpster—into colorful and often intricate abstract works as small as a sheet of notepaper and as large as 9’ by 14’. “There’s an immediacy [to collage] and such a rich trove of supplies. I’m drawn to the color, the beautiful textures, the typographical and graphic elements,” he says.

Letscher, who has shown his work both domestically and internationally in a range of mediums, has published several books, including the retrospective Lance Letscher Collage and

The Perfect Machinea children’s story that grew out of a collage commissioned by a local children’s hospital. It’s one of many works that have a layer of narrative—a characteristic Letscher points to as the biggest change in his work over time. He’s currently working on cutting out images of model airplanes and toy trains from vintage magazines, and is prepping for an exhibition in Houston in October. No matter what shape it takes, we’re sure the corpse will be lovely.

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