An Aisle Seat Review ART! Review: Take A Look at These Books! – by Cari Lynn Pace

For over 25 years, Marin’s Museum of Contemporary Art has been the nexus for exhibitions, artist workspace, and art classes for adults and more than 1,000 children. Prominently located at 500 Palm Drive in the Hamilton area of Novato, Marin MOCA encourages its 160 artist members to participate in 15 annual contemporary art exhibitions.

Marin MOCA main gallery.

This August, MOCA again presents its whimsical and thought-provoking exhibition: the 11th Annual Altered Book Exhibition and Silent Auction.

“What is an altered book?” you ask.

“Good question!” answers Nancy Rehkopf, MarinMOCA’s Executive Director. “It is a form of contemporary art, in a category called the book arts. It is a fast-growing category of great interest in the Bay Area.”

…“The pieces are innovative, clever, and fun…”

There are two kinds of altered books in this year’s display of 130 objects:

The first is an “altered book” which incorporates a component of an actual book: a book spine, a cover, inside pages, illustrations, words, and so on. The artist then combines one or more of these with paint, sculpture, metalwork, etc., to create a unique original artwork. These pieces become anything: clothing, mobiles, set pieces, wall candy, even furniture.

The second category is an “artist book,” where the artist does everything to create the artwork as a book: the artist might write the words, or do the illustrations, or create the paper, or even bind the book. These pieces are typically more personal, more reflective, and always supremely creative.

“A Fisherman’s Tale”
by Jay O’Neil

The art pieces are judged for awards by two local jurors: Donna Seager, owner of the Seager Grey Gallery in Mill Valley, and Mary Austin, co-founder of the San Francisco Center for the Book.

Seager notes, “The quality of the work has grown tremendously over the eleven years that MOCA has been presenting this competitive exhibition.” Austin adds, “The pieces are innovative, clever, and fun. There were cultural tones reflecting everything from the pandemic to whimsy and escapism.”

These expert jurors raved over the quality of the works, and gave awards as follows:

      • First Place: “Kintsugi Stitches” by Lisa Rodondi
      • Second Place: “Ocean of Tears” by Paulette Traverso
      • Third Place: “The Divide States of America” by Monica Lee

Honorable mentions: “A Fisherman’s Tale” by Jay O’Neil, “Kindling Spirit” by Jeff Downing, “Inner Thoughts 2020” by Regina Bode, “Upon Reflection” by Laura DeAnna, “A Bird in the Hand” by Gale Kiniry, “Flyaways and Dedications” by Deborah Sullivan, and “Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer” by Linda Mueller.

Also, the jurors gave a Special Recognition Award to “Cindy’s Life” by Cindy Johnson, and the Glue Award went to “Stories of Place” by Julia Arndt.

The artists have donated most of MOCA’s 130 art objects toward this huge fundraising event. The works will be sold on August 21st when an online auction takes place at 7:00 PM. Go to and click on “Get ready to bid” to open an account to bid at All pieces are displayed on the site, with details about size, media, and the artist.

“Ode to Orpheus”
by Esther Seigel

MOCA hopes to raise $50,000 from the Altered Book Exhibition to support its programs. They have a head start with a $10,000 challenge grant from Donald O. and Ronald R. Collins Fund — a loyal supporter for many years — and presenting sponsor Carson Wealth, a nationwide wealth investment management firm located in San Rafael.

Due to the museum’s closure to the general public, folks are welcome to see these pieces in person through August 29th by requesting a time and day they wish to visit at

Believe me: it is a pleasure to linger over these amusing works of art without a crowd standing in the way.


ASR Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a member of SFBATCC and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.