Special to valcomnews.com
Two major public artworks by noted California artists Mildred Howard and Deborah Aschheim will be unveiled when the Pocket Library opens this fall.
After being selected by a panel, which was comprised of members of the Pocket and library communities, the Arts Commission, and arts professionals, both artists spent months researching and determining what their works should “say” to the people who will use the library over many decades to come.
“I’m interested in the systems that operate within buildings,” says Aschheim, who holds a BA in Anthropology from Brown University and an MFA from the University of Washington. “The connections between the physical structure of a space and the human activities housed within.”
Aschheim spent much of last summer researching how library books are organized and tracked, interviewing library staff, Council Member Robbie Waters, and others in the community. The objective of her research was to find a metaphor to illustrate the unique content of the library’s book collection as well as the way it is organized.
The resulting artwork is titled “Taxonomy” (a term to describe the practice and science of classification) and is a delicate sculptural wall hanging to be installed on the east and south sides of the building. Made with glass and lit from the inside, the piece looks like a vine or plant that has escaped from the inside of the library and is growing across the buildings south and east facades. It has ten branches, inspired by the ten classes of the Dewey decimal classification system, and suggesting the patterning of rivers and canyons, the synaptic axons of neurons, or the tributaries of veins and arteries. It is meant to make us think of the “tree of knowledge” and will be an illuminated portrait of the specific book and media collection of the Pocket-Greenhaven Library, which is itself a portrait of the intellectual and cultural life of the Pocket-Greenhaven community.
Aschheim says, “Although I am basing the form of the artwork on the statistical information about the library collection, overall, the artwork is a metaphorical portrait and not a literal representation of (what used to be called) the card catalog. My objective is to invite patrons to think about all of the information in the library as part of an interconnected larger system of information that grows and is, in a sense, ‘alive’.”
In contrast, the proposed artwork, “Meaningful Contrasts Between Utterances, 2010,” by Mildred Howard, has an entirely different purpose. Integrated into the walls that frame the children and teen areas of the library, Mildred chose to make something that evokes the power of the river. She says the artwork is meant to, “make us think about how rivers and flows are managed, and how they mix (like the flows of people across time) and how this has shaped, and continues to shape the Pocket-Greenhaven area.”
The artwork is composed of a series of windows constructed of multicolored green and blue glass panes that appear to be woven and pleated together. The glass, in some areas, will be etched with letters of the alphabet. The letters will look as if they are fading in and out, disappearing and reappearing as if they were below the water.
In her statement about the piece, Howard points out that the earth upon which the library stands is composed of sediment deposited over eons of flooding, “The land is a remnant or memory, if you will, of past flows. I envision the glass for the main window running along these lines, a vitrified moment of flow, a reminder of the power of the river and a celebration of its beauty.”
Both artworks are made possible through the city of Sacramento’s “percent for art” program which reserves a portion of construction dollars from city projects for art.