To Be An Artist is to Trust
When it is time to share the work, I must trust in the viewer. I must believe that he or she will approach my work with respect and curiosity. I must realize that viewers bring their life experiences to the work. They arrive with knowledge and emotions. They take whatever time they require to discern meaning. They take from the piece what they are able to and what they need. I have no influence or power. And then, I rest. www.joisraelson.com
Liber is not my first public artwork for a library. I was 9 years old when the Marada Adams School was built across the street from my house. The elementary school was a 2-story brick structure. A public library was housed on the first floor. You had to be 6 years old to obtain a card. Even though I had been reading for a year, I was only 5 and a rule is a rule. I then petitioned for special dispensation and won. I selected books by trailing my fingers along the spines until a title caught my interest. For most of my childhood, I spent my free time taking out and returning books.
My 3rd grade class was asked to create images for a concrete frieze that would be installed on the face of the new school. It would be approximately 42 feet long and 8 feet high. Everyone created a paper cut-out that depicted an outdoor activity. My ‘girl jumping rope’ image was chosen for replication in the mural. (You ask: How do I recall which of the images was mine? I am still upset that I removed her braids when cutting out the image.) See page 5. http://issuu.com/munjoyhill/docs/aug2011munjoyhillobserver
After 53 years as an icon and gathering place in the neighborhood, the school/library was raised to make way for affordable housing and a small park. As a result of a “save the mural” campaign, the frieze was de-installed and a committee of architects, developers, current and former neighborhood residents and one sculptor (me) met to determine its fate. The only decision we could agree upon was to retain and store the mural. No other plans were finalized. My jump rope girl awaits a new home – hopefully in the old ‘hood.
Oh the Places You’ll Go
June is graduation time. The current 9-month calendar was established when 85% of Americans were involved in agriculture and when schools were not air-conditioned. But the 180-day rule still applies in most states – agrarian or not. The creation of Liber took 9 months – from the selection of the stone in Indiana to its installation at the library.
The school bus stops in front of my studio and the screeching of brakes serves as my alarm clock. The often ill-clad and frequently half-asleep students clamber aboard each morning.
My countdown week for the installation coincided with final exams and graduation. While they prepared for tests, I prepared for the installation and dedication of Liber. I am not sure who was more anxious.
As you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with
many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
And remember that
Life’s a Great Balancing Act…
And will you succeed?
Yes, you will indeed.
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
Kid you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way.
How do you feel now that it’s done?
What would you do differently?
How much does it weigh now? (Answer: 9000 lbs.)
What are you going to work on next?
Based on her commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College, Patchett tells her own story of attending college, graduating, and struggling with the inevitable question, What now?
“From student to line cook to teacher to waitress and eventually to award-winning author, Patchett’s own life has taken many twists and turns that make her exploration genuine and resonant. As Patchett writes, “‘What now?’ represents our excitement and our future, the very vitality of life.”
I write thank you notes. I post my last blog entry. I clear out the temporary studio. I clean my long neglected house. I detail the truck. I pay bills. I go to the hair stylist and acupuncturist (in that order.) I sell off electric tools in hopes of recouping some of the out-of-pocket monies. I donate my 25 year-old pneumatic and hand tools to the Vermont Carving Studio.
Before I start a project, I get my house in order. And when I complete a project, I do the same. As a clutter buster, I reassure my clients:
“If you discard what is no longer useful to make room for what is really important, the ‘empty’ space will fill with exactly what you need. Just trust.”
In What Now? Padgett highlights the possibilities the unknown offers and reminds us that there is as much joy in the journey as there is in reaching the destination.
Everything is gestation and birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of feeling come to completion entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born; this alone is what it means to live as an artist in understanding as in creation.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Additional photos provided by Joseph Knights
During the making of Liber, many people walked along the stone path with me. Each one contributed to the success of the journey.
If you don’t see your name on the list and feel it should be, I apologize for the oversight. Please know I appreciated your support.
- Lynn Wheeler, Scott Rinehart and staff at Carroll County Public Library and members of the Sculpture Committee
- Sandy Oxx and Susan Williamson, Carroll County Arts Council
- Tom Rio, Bruce Lockard and all the crew at the Carroll County Roads Operations and Public Works
- Public works cleaning crew who didn’t give me a hard time when I trailed dust (like Pig Pen in the comics) throughout the building
- Independent Limestone
- Stonebelt Transport
- Digging and Rigging
- Mathias Monuments
- Welding Contractors LLC, Kyle Palumbo
- Starbucks staff at Safeway (Jen, Gabby and Diane)
- Dan Stack, Photographer and Joseph McKnight, Photography
- Friends who provided physical, emotional, spiritual sustenance (Maggie, Eileen, Barb)
- My Book Club (Elizabeth, Judy, Linda)
- Members of the Pipe Creek Meeting
- Homer Yost and Becky Laughlin for artistic feedback
- Those who took care of my body – Dawn, Alison, staff at the YMCA
- Mary L. Dewey Family