Rutherford Witthus, “Look On This Wonder”

View of the work from above.

View of work from the side, showing the structure of the prisms.

The prism “pages” being shifted around within and outside the book tray “binding.”

Close-up view of the prisms with images and text.

Single five-sided page.


Rutherford Witthus (Walpole, NH)

Look On This Wonder
Archival inkjet, folds, paste
Edition of 5
25 pages
15.25 × 15.25 × 2.75″

I wanted to play with the idea of the book as a myriorama. The traditional myriorama was a set of cards with various images of a landscape, always with an internal element that joined the cards together while at the same time allowing them to be juxtaposed in any order. Look On This Wonder uses paper prisms as five-sided “pages” that can be moved around randomly within the “book” or be separated from the other pages and rearranged outside the confines of the square book tray “binding.” The pages can also be stacked on top of one another to form three-dimensional “chapters.” Each page has three squares and two triangles: the squares provide spaces for various fragmented views of the male nude and selected words from Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric;” the triangles entreat the viewer over and over to look on the wonder of the human body. Touching the fragile paper prisms is like touching the model’s body parts, adding an element of sensuality to the rigid geometry of the prisms. To add a bit of mischievousness to this playful myriorama, while one might assume that the elements of the nude body appearing on the faces of the prisms can be put back together, they cannot and will always remain fragmented. Only the poem can be reconstructed in its original order. The questions of what constitutes a page and what constitutes a book remain as unresolved and mysterious as ever. As Gertrude Stein wrote in Tender Buttons: “Book was there, it was there. Book was there.”