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Dozens and dozens of books make the sculpture “I’m Free But It’ll Cost You” by surrealist and conceptual artist David Lipski. (Photo credit: Amy Zavatto)

This past Saturday night, books were flying off the shelf at Southampton Arts Center. Or, in SAC’S new exhibition “Look at the Book,” they certainly were displayed and portrayed in ways that defied the standard.

Goran Pemil’s cascading tomes in “Books Forever.” (Photo credit: Amy Zavatto)

Curated by executive director Christina Strassfield, the multimedia exhibit — on display from February 24 to May 4 — features 33 artists, from both nearby and afar, interpreting and exploring a multitude of ways that books affect, and are affected by, the surrounding world.

From literacy and the dismantling of the status quo by the digital age (or not), to equity, freedom of speech, the current divisive political climate and so much more, these works hit on topics that will move you, make you laugh and certainly inspire discussion long after.

“‘Look at the Book’ is an exhibition that I felt was timely to do at this time,” says Strassfield. “When putting it together I felt it was a tribute to books. Each of the artists has their own view and interpretation but you can feel the homage to the book and the concept.”  

It’s a timely topic to see interpreted through the view of the dozens of artists exhibiting their work. According to the Columbia Teacher’s College, censorship and book banning across the nation was up 38 percent in 2022 alone, with books written by people of color or those in the LGBTQ community becoming particular targets in the report, and public and school libraries coming under fire more and more frequently for what’s on their shelves.

The opening reception was packed with bibliophiles and humming with curious onlookers, wanting to see in what ways the reading medium would be turned on its spine, like with Goran Petmil’s cascading “Books Forever,” Donald Lipski’s prodding “I’m Free But It’ll Cost You,” and Karyn Mannix’s local wink “East End Bonac.”

In addition to the three-month long stint of the exhibition, Strassfield will be hosting a guided gallery tour and talk on Saturday, March 2 at 2 p.m. Reserve your spot here.

Says Strassfield, “We all appreciate technology but nothing will replace holding a book in your hands and turning the pages lovingly, placing your bookmark, coming back and picking it up again to continue reading!”