Fun and idiosyncratic characters honor Mike Stilkey’s salvaged book sculptures


#animals #books #painting #sculpture

January 6, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Mike Stilkey, shared with permission

Dapper penguins, nonchalant musicians, and self-destructive politicians are some of the distinct figures that adorn Mike Stilkey’s sculptures. The (previously) Los Angeles-based artist digs through piles of discarded books, searching for complementary titles that become the basis of his towering works. Using ink, colored pencils, paint and lacquer, he creates minimal portraits of figures with exaggerated limbs or of instruments and gestures that show a flair for the absurd.

Oscillating from playful and whimsical to cheeky and ironic, Stilkey’s idiosyncratic, sometimes anthropomorphic characters translate an essential interpretation of the messages or the subject of the volumes through a contemporary lens. He explains:

Sometimes it’s an ironic, ironic, and satirical thing, and sometimes it’s an extension or interpretation of it. It depends on the book and my mood. There has been a lot of fodder over the past couple of years with all the political talk and things you hear or read in the news or on social media. But I’ve always been able to do it with books. This is one of the reasons I started using books as a canvas or vehicle for painting – the richness of layering literary and visual narratives to convey something more complex.

In addition to the reused sculptures shown here, Stilkey also creates installations with thousands of books and large figures, although these on-site projects have been on hold since the start of the pandemic. Prints and postcards are available in the artist’s store, and you can follow his works on Instagram.

#animals #books #painting #sculpture

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