stumbled upon mike stilkey and a cat lady

So I was at Bonifacio High Street to get my brother Mike a parting present — a bracelet with the useful icons (urinal or male/female sign for toilet, plane for airport, that sort of thing) to bring along to Honduras where folks speak Spanish (great idea huh? too bad it’s out of stock at the travel shop, gah) — when I stumbled upon another Mike, Stilkey, at FullyBooked.

Isn't she a suspicious witch?

Isn’t she a suspicious witch?

Stilkey is an LA-based artist who paints on discards like vintage paper, record covers, book covers and book pages, and as in this particular over 22/25 feet installation, on the books themselves. The exhibit’s called “Discarded Romance” and the installation itself will be a permanent fixture at FullyBooked. This was the 10,000-pounder he sent off to the Hong Kong Times Square exhibit, only to find out that the space it was made for didn’t have a high enough ceiling. This is the perfect space for it I think.

I liked the look of it, that’s why I listened to him talk a bit on how he paints characters and animals (he has pets like cats and snakes at home I believe, worst combo ever) and that usually the women look like his wife, and she claims they are, but he doesn’t really give it much deliberate thought. He speaks of painting the “soul” of the discards, which is certainly romantic.

In a past life, I would have stayed to talk to the bearded dude and made a story of it. I would have recorded his words, even when he’d just be talking about playing pool to clear his head before going back to painting. Or how he rues the industrial tape used by libraries to make dust jackets stay on hardbound books (he has to slice those suckers one by one).

I like Stilkey’s art, but I’m also torn. His art is a type of vandalism, is it not? I like this cat lady, but at the same time I’m itching to remove one of the books on top, just to see what it is about and who wrote it. Because what Stilkey does is give new life to discards, but he also makes his art supersede that of others.

How can he know the soul of these objects — does he listen to those records (and believe me, when I was young and foolish, I asked for someone’s unknown–at least to me–vinyl record to use in a school project, and I regretted it later), does he read those books? Doubtful.

Not that I have a burning urge to read “The Doctor’s Quick Weight Loss Diet” of course — I think the couple Stilkey painted embracing in a sort of dance is more interesting than that one — but there’s also “The Clue of the Tapping Heels” which sounds suspiciously like a Nancy Drew book (I checked, it is, no. 16). And boy oh boy, Nancy and I have a history.

If you were a book, would you rather be in a dusty old library on a forgotten shelf, or would you want to be in a Stilkey painting? Either way, you’re still unseen (or covered in paint) and unread.

Can’t help remembering the old Jo, who used to go to the discards section of National Bookstore, or who used to haunt the library looking for books not read or encountered yet (apparently they didn’t have no. 16 in my old grade school).

But the Stilkey stuff sure does look pretty, doesn’t it?


  1. Art_schmart · · Reply

    I once recorded over a Kenny Loggins cassette tape to make a voice tape for my dad who’s abroad. Felt justified when I did it, but regretted it years after.

    1. kenny loggins. quintessential 80s guy 🙂 his songs bring me back to my childhood. i’m sure your dad appreciated the sound of your voice though

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