Artist Chronicles the Journey of Books Into Customers' Lives

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Skylight Books, the six-year-old bookstore in the art-steeped La Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, will host an unusual photography exhibit from February 2 to March 1, titled Memorial for the Skylight Diaspora by Rebecca Tuynman. Artist and art educator Tuynman is a neighbor and frequent customer of Skylight Books. The exhibit will include a series of her portraits and responses to postcards distributed inside of books sold at the store.

Tuynman recently told BTW how the project came about: "I have a long standing relationship with the store and its staff. Last fall I was in the store, trying to think of a new project -- I really started to focus on the books around me. Skylight has a living tree in the center of the store with a bench around it, and, sitting in the middle of all those books, it began to sink in how much information was there -- how many stories and images. And they all get bought up and go away, out of the store, just to be replaced in one way or another on the shelves. Memorial for the Skylight Diaspora is my attempt to grab some of the stories of where the books are going and why."

Selecting 82 titles, Tuynman created the exhibit by photographing an image either from the cover of the book or an interior illustration. She put stamped, self-addressed postcards inside each copy of the books, with information about the show on one side and questions for the purchaser on the reverse. She sent out several hundred postcards through December 2002. Of those, 33 have been returned so far. The exhibit will include 21 titles.

She explained, "Each piece includes the photograph from the book, and text I've written using the postcard responses and sales information from the store -- such as how many have sold and how long this copy was sitting on the shelf before it sold. I tried to make each book and its purchaser seem real, and to show how each book has a story and a life outside the bookstore. The works will be installed on or near the spot where that book was sold -- either on the shelf itself or on an endcap … to memorialize it."

To read more about the Memorial for the Skylight Diaspora project and to see examples of the artwork, click here.

For more on Skylight Books, click here. -- Nomi Schwartz