Arts & Culture

Books as art on display at SLO library

'Hummingbird Radar' by Julie Frankel.
'Hummingbird Radar' by Julie Frankel.

Can you think of a single book title that belongs under lock and key at the library? Me neither. Yet, for the rest of the month San Luis Obispo City/County Library has a pretty big stack stashed away behind glass. They don’t need censoring, but they do need protection from fans of book art who would certainly want to turn a few pages if they could.

You’ll find the first dozen or so pieces in “The Art of the Book” exhibit in the library’s foyer and the rest near the periodicals.

Melinda Forbes created “Stacked Form,” a square book somewhere in size between a matchbook and a small address book. One of the pages includes the handwritten text “before the concert” and I wanted so much to find out what comes next. That darn glass case!

The inability to reach in and thumb through the pages couldn’t curb my enthusiasm for “Happy 50th Bday” by Mary Weaver Meagher. A cake mix box serves as the cover for the birthday cards bound inside.

Meagher puts her own spin on the-sky’s-the-limit book art form by incorporating quilting techniques. A couple of her contributions are journals of fabric, paper and thread.

“The book can become a visual work of art in addition to being a source of information, interest and pleasure,” said local artist Meryl Perloff in press materials. “The creative endeavors of book artists take many forms and give voice to the various ways we interpret information and communicate ideas.”

Perloff and other participants are members of the Ruby Slippers Book Arts Group, formed 15 years ago by Forbes after taking classes from Cuesta College art instructor David Prochaska.

Altering discarded books with paint, photos and tiny envelopes, especially children’s board books, is the gateway for crafty types to enter this world of book arts. And from what I could tell from this side of the glass, most of these artists started from scratch or they repurposed something other than an existing book for the base.

A similar exhibit with a few of these artists and others was presented at last year’s Central Coast Book and Author Festival. Take a peek at

Even those who might not consider themselves artists will find inspiration for scrapbooks, journals and travel logs. And, of course, the Black Gold Cooperative Library System offers plenty of how-to books. Start by searching for “altered books.”

Contact freelance writer Monica Fiscalini at