I love books. They’ve been my best friends all my life. For all the good they’ve done for me, I try to take good care of my books…or well, books in general. A single fold, tear, or mark on a book feels a little like vandalism, like a violation of the book’s integrity. I’ve even been known to tell off people for writing on their books or holding them open so wide a crease forms on the book’s spine. Imagine then my horror at hearing about an artist who uses books as his canvas!
I blame Fully Booked for introducing me to Mike Stilkey, the artist who does indeed paint on books.
I heard about Mike Stilkey through the Twitterverse and was genuinely intrigued. What do they mean he paints on books? Curiosity piqued, I did as any sensible child of technology would. I googled him. My initial reservation towards Stilkey’s work was replaced by admiration (which would increase after getting to meet him but more on that later). His style is so expressive and distinctive and oddly reminds me of Lautrec and Munch. His works give an air of whimsy and wonder to the story they tell, breathing a kind of magic into something as mundane as a man in a top hat.
Mike Stilkey is an LA-based artist who uses vintage paper, old record covers and books as his canvass. He works mainly with ink, pencil and paint for his creations. His exhibit here in the Philippines entitled “Discarded Romance” is featured in the Atrium of Fully Booked at Bonifacio Global City.
So one Saturday afternoon, I decided to give myself a break from the two and a half jobs I’ve been working on all week. I headed over to Fully Booked in search of wonderful. I was not disappointed.
The first thing I looked for upon entering the store was of course the two storey-high book sculpture installation. I was half-expecting it to be spectacularly extravagant and over the top. Instead it turned out to be understated, compelling and oddly nostalgic. It struck me that all those books came together to share the narrative of Stilkey’s art. It didn’t seem like vandalism at all, just a different way of telling a story.
Any remaining qualms I had about this treatment of books vanished completely after having the opportunity to speak with the artist himself. I told him about my change of heart. “You’re giving these books a second life,” I told Mike Stilkey as he patiently drew a cat on my notebook. He expressed his hope that other people see it that way as well, “Especially” he said, “since I go out of my way to use discarded books.” I couldn’t help but respect the man for his work as well as his work ethic.
Overall, it was an afternoon well spent in the company of a fellow cat lover and amazingly unique storyteller. Needless to say, I am now a fan of Mile Stilkey’s book sculptures and paintings. He truly is breathing new life into books that would otherwise be simply thrown away.
For more information about Mike Stilkey and his exhibits, you can visit the sites below: