Artist Mike Stilkey, far right
So-cal artist judges books by their covers
Good news! In case you missed Costa Mesa’s )( Space Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Reminiscent: Mike Stilkey, it has been reinstalled in the Hurley creative retail space in Laguna Beach just in time for their one year anniversary.
Orange County active wear giant Hurley recently opened their new gallery in Costa Mesa, CA to give art-thirsty Orange Countians refreshing monthly art shows curated by former Billy Shire Fine Arts director Annie Adjchavanich while giving Hurley’s own growing family of artists a place to display their artistic talents. Alta Dena based artist Mike Stilkey, a self-taught painter, debuted his most recent work in the new space. He paints on repurposed books, which included a monstrous book installation mural. Stilkey is quick to point out that all the books used in his work are discarded books he rescues from public libraries.
At the 255 Forest opening of Reminiscent: Mike Stilkey on July 1, during Laguna Beach’s arts walk, I had the chance to sit down with Sam Arthur, creative director of retail at Hurley. He explained to me how the Hurley space, which opened July 2, 2009 differs from other retail spaces. “There are three reasons,” Arthur tells me. “ One, this unique space has a special product mix from Nike 6.0, Hurley, and Converse with a particular connection to art. Two, we emphasize community interaction as a part gallery, part retail, part art making space and partner with the local high schools and colleges, doing silk-screening, t-shirt design contests and photography exhibitions and supporting the local surf and skate kids. Three, we have a workshop inside our space where anyone can create custom products with one of a kind graphics from artists such as Dalek, Robert Williams and many more.”
I decided to check out the Hurley Workshop where the friendly Mike Cuneo was helping visitors design their own board shorts, tee shirts and Converse shoes. Designs constantly rotate to keep ideas fresh and their customization includes either a sublimation process or high quality digital printing.
Of all the work in Stilkey’s solo exhibition here, by far the most impressive piece is the twenty-foot high mural located in the middle of the space. The 4,400 book piece features the illustrative portrait of a man and woman in shades of black and white, reminiscent of German artist Egon Scheile’s svelte and languid figures. Standing at the bottom and looking up to the dizzying top made me feel like Jack and the Beanstalk. It’s part monument to art, part shrine to bibliophiles. Stilkey particularly enjoys painting the murals where he can stand and move around the paint on such a huge canvas, er book pile! The smaller pieces, such as Old Man and the Sea he paints at home where he carefully selects specific book titles.
Check out the show at 255 Forest Drive in Laguna Beach and if time, design your own surf gear before hitting the waves this summer.
Info on the artist and Hurley: