Now that Spring is in full bloom, it’s a perfect time to visit the library and admire the art. Yes, we are blessed with a variety of original pieces by important artists that grace the grounds and walls. I admit I took much of it for granted until only recently.
As a storm moved east one late afternoon in March, the setting sun cast purple orange rays under the gray clouds illuminating the sculpture I’d seen a hundred times, but never really looked at until that moment. The copper leaves on double helix sculpture revolved gently in the breeze. Really looking at the piece was not only calming but made me curious to know more about it.
No one at the library could tell me the history of the copper wind sculpture, but they recommended contacting Dorcas Cecil, a former library board member for twenty-two years and president for eleven of those. As it turns out, she and her husband donated the piece titled Giant Star Twister to “serve as seed for a sculpture park.” She added that the Missouri Botanical Garden has several of his works.
The artist’s biography posted on the Leopold Gallery website states: “Lyman Whitaker has been sculpting since the 1970’s, dedicating much of his time to the creation of kinetic art. He has become the most recognized artist in the creation of wind sculptures in his generation. Collectors include Sea World, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Naples Art Association, the Hill-Stead Museum of French Impressionism, and private collectors throughout North America, Europe and Australia.
Lyman’s wind sculptures reflect an organic theme. In fact his strongest wish is to have his art encourage civilization to create a more harmonious relationship with the earth. Each work is made of copper and stainless steel, is designed to last for generations, and has been tested to withstand 90 MPH winds.”
Former O’Fallon Mayor Gary Graham is credited with acquiring the library’s other outdoor sculpture, Oculus 1999, by Rob Lorenson. On his website, Lorenson explains that the elements of his work: “exist in suspended animation. They are situated as though to freeze a moment in time in which they exist effortlessly in space…. The forms have boldness and exactness that are inspired by the martial arts where grace and precision are practiced until they are effortless.” Two other Lorenson sculptures can be seen locally, Persistence of Youth at O’Fallon City Hall and Fragmented Form at the SWIC campus.
Inside, there are two murals by Smithton professional artist, Brent Alexander. One in the Kid’s Place, that incorporates themes of discovery and whimsy. (If you haven’t been in, you really must check out the titles the animals are reading.) The location of that mural provided a challenge of how to include the door to the meeting room. His solution is creative and stimulates the imagination.
Alexander said in an interview that he hopes his artwork inspires other young people to create art or read. In addition to the murals, he also painted well known book titles on the steps to the upper level – something that catches the attention of all who see it for the first time.
The mural in The Hub (teen room) is more abstract and the subject is dreaming and fantasizing about the many places books lead the reader.
Caeli Blount, local writer and member of the O’Fallon Writing Group, reflected on the mural:
Daydreaming while on a mission to read an assignment, a Teen gnaws on her fingertips while a myriad of thoughts and ideas burst forth. Some soft and simple like tiny butterflies flittering near newly opened flowers. Others, vibrant and chaotic, much like a photographer views its subject in a fast-paced photoshoot. Flash! The Universe with its planets and life forms. Flash! A bass guitar keeping a steady beat as sheet music wafts by. Flash! Algebraic formulas dancing across the horizon of the mind. Flash! Love; Peace; Tranquility. Flash! A bolt of lightning striking the ground while thundering out to “Focus”.
All this and more abstractly set in a complement of colors dancing across the wall! Inspiring!! – Caeli Blount
Perhaps the most well-known piece, Bernie Fuchs’s Ragtime Tumpie, is in the Magazine room. Fuchs, originally from O’Fallon, went on to study art at Washington University and to an award winning career in commercial illustration. In addition to hundreds of illustrations for companies such as Coca-Cola and Sports Illustrated, Fuchs also painted presidents and other notable individuals including John F. Kennedy and Jackie Robinson. He created six postage stamps. Fuchs donated Ragtime Tumpie and a second painting that hangs beside it to the library.
There is also a painting by local artist and patron Ed Bazan in the Magazine Room, a reproduction of The Nut Gatherers by William Adolphe-Bouguereau. The original is held at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Before you end your art tour at the library, you must study the intricate embroidered robin dedicated to Ann Glascock for her 35 years as Youth Services Director. It hangs in the Kid’s Place and was created by award winning artist Yan Inlow. Inlow studied art at Kobe University and she said on her website that her style is a blend of Japanese with a Chinese embroidery technique. “I do this first by painting an image on silk backing, then accenting the painting with silk embroidery over the image. The embroidery is very detailed and of high quality using very fine silk thread,” Inlow stated.
And while it may not technically be considered art, you should definitely plan a quiet visit to the Magazine Room and relax to the soothing bubble-water-wall and its changing colors.
There’s plenty to see and do here at the library.
Enjoy your art tour!