Client: City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs / Los Angeles Public Library
Location: Los Angeles, CA, United States
Completion date: 2009
Artwork budget: $30,000
Senior Librarian, Fairfax Branch Public Library
(49″ x 97″ overall / 8″ x 8″ x 3/8″ each tile) For the Los Angeles Fairfax Branch Library, I combined cosmology, geometry, basketry and storytelling with Native American motifs and American Sign Language in two thematically related murals. An exterior ceramic tile mural sits above a built-in bench, harmonizing with the Spanish-style architecture, yet subtly addressing the region's legacy and still-present impact from European colonization. (A second digitally printed mural was also designed for the interior Young Adult Area.)
Two hands lift a labyrinthine “lightening bolt” pattern inspired by California Native American basketry. The hand gesture signifies ‘justice’ or ‘judgment’ in American Sign Language. The vista beyond carries twinkling high-gloss stars set in a matte blue-gray sky, appearing simultaneously as night and day. The eight-pointed stars are derived from local Native American sources. The mural's imagery sets the tone for crossing the entry threshold and honors the library’s mission as a catalyst for the self-pursuit of knowledge and global understanding. The witnessing of the unveiling of sitting patrons adds a further element of surrealist humor.
Researching the physical space and interviewing Roy Stone, the Senior Librarian, to learn about his issues, audience and community’s opposition to a recent library renovation proposal were central to creating my art concepts. The L.A. Cultural Affairs and Public Library staff who composed the art committee encouraged my research into local Native American motifs. The final mural proposals were presented separately to members of both the Public Library and City of L.A. as well as the Friends of the Fairfax Library. Stone commented that the resulting artworks resonated so well that they appeared to have been created at the library’s inception.
As a father to a young child, I strongly value and make weekly use of my local public library. These places of civic communal interaction are ideal locations for engaging public art.