If you don’t know Mike Stilkey’s work yet, get your act together. Or, better yet, stop by The Standard, Downtown LA, where he’s just completed a 42-foot long mural called “The Zoo Drop.” The rapidly rising art star is about to head off to Hong Kong to take over the city’s Times Square with a massive installation. But first, he was kind enough to answer a few questions …
Standard Culture: What inspires the imagery in your work?
Mike Stilkey: My main sources of inspiration are things that happen in my day-to-day life, which is where the most meaningful experiences exist. I did a book sculpture piece, for example, called “Enemy in the House,” that shows a man trying to push a cat off a chair. This was directly influenced by my daily life: every time I get out of my chair, one of my cats steals it. I’m also inspired by used objects. I look to things that have a history and background because I like to imagine the stories behind them.
Your best known for your book sculptures. How did that idea come about?
The evolution of the book sculptures transpired over a period of a few years. When I first became an artist, I absolutely despised drawing on new, clean, white pieces of paper or canvases. I preferred to work on vintage or weathered paper or similar materials. That led me to create pieces on old or vintage book pages. I also love the idea that I’m layering visual narratives over the written word. Eventually, I began stacking the books on each other and painting the spines.
What do you like most about public art?
Public art definitely has a different impact on the viewer. It can catch you off-guard. If you go to a gallery, you’re going there specifically to view art, but if you’re walking to work and you unexpectedly see a mural of a yak doing a somersault, it has a different impact. It’s also more accessible to people who may not necessarily visit galleries or have an interest in gallery art. The environment surrounding a public piece of art can also lend context that’s missing in gallery spaces.
You’re about to jet off to Hong Kong to install a large-scale public art piece. Tell us about it!
I’ll be having a month-long solo exhibition in Times Square, Hong Kong, beginning July 9th. I’ll have about 30 or 40 new pieces of work that will be on display and also some extremely large book installations. I don’t want to give away too many details, but it’ll definitely be my largest exhibition to date. I’m very excited about it.