By Marion Filler
When is a book not a book? For the answer, look no further than the Morristown & Township Library.
The Journey of a Lifetime…. Starts with the Turn of a Page, proclaims an eight-by-seven-foot mural that uses books as both medium and theme.
Morris Township resident Monique Sarfity, who teaches art at the Eisenhower Middle School in Wyckoff, worked with volunteers through the summer to create the artwork, which fills an alcove across from the library elevator.
Sarfity holds degrees in Fine Arts and Art Education, and was a 2009 winner of a Geraldine R. Dodge Artist Fellowship.
She studied classical mosaic technique in Ravenna, Italy, but over time has transitioned to experimental work using trash and recycled objects to create large murals and installations.
Books became Sarfity’s medium when the public library in Wyckoff contacted her about using old tomes for an art project in the classroom.
“While brainstorming ideas to use the books, I came across a few artists who were using books as a canvas for large painted murals,” says Sarfity, whose creations have been exhibited at the Morris Museum, the Gallery at 14 Maple in Morristown, BWAC Galleries in Red Hook, and the Parthenon Museum in Nashville, TN.
With tips from peers on how to assemble and secure multiple volumes, Sarfity embarked upon her project. The result was an enormous mural measuring 23-by-8 feet. It wasn’t easy.
“I needed more books than the Wyckoff library had available, so I reached out to other local libraries and discovered they also had several bins of discarded books that needed to be recycled. I lived in Morristown, so they were the first ones I contacted.”
After seeing images of the Wyckoff mural, Morristown’s library wanted one as well.
“I realized that libraries have a problem with what to do with all the extra books they have. They sometimes have to pay to have them removed, so transforming them into works of art is something I’m really excited about,” says Sarfity.
“Now that I know there’s a need to recycle them, I hope to make more.”
Donations average about 100 books every week in Morristown, so “weeding” of damaged and outdated volumes is a necessity, acknowledges library Director Chad Leinaweaver.
Sarfity’s Morristown installation was completed over the summer with the assistance of students and the Friends of the Library.
After being grouped for color and size, some 650 books were stacked and glued to each other and secured with brackets screwed into the wall.
“It’s a pretty permanent installation,” says Sarfity. “I suppose it could be removed at some point with a great deal of work. People were quite intrigued while we worked on it.”