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Project Status: Completed 4-7-2010

"Authors of Our Own Destiny"

Here is more information that you could possibly want about my North Natomas Library public art project - from pre-concept to completion:

Where is it?

First a bit of information about how (many) public art projects are chosen. First a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) is made public. An RFQ icludes information about the project and requirements to apply and a call for resumes of artists who are interested in applying. From these applications, a handful of finalists are chosen to produce a specific proposal for the project.

The finalists are usually given a small stipend to reimburse the time and expense of putting together a proposal, budget, maquette, etc. The proposals are presented to a selection panel consisting of people with an interest in the project (planners, architects, the project owner, the commissioning agency, peer artists, etc.). When the panel has selected a project, there are a few reviews by the arts commission and the city and then a contract is awarded.

So the story begins. I was selected as a finalist for this project in the summer of 2008 and the contract was signed in November. The library was scheduled to open in April 2009. (The actual opening ceremony was January 7th, 2010 and my sculpture was completed April 7th, 2010.):

Some sketches and notes of my first concept. This one proved too complicated, expensive, and not really suited to the site. I had this idea fully fleshed out with a narrative, budget and a maquette before concluding it wasn't feasible about a week before the presentation was due.

Some sketches of the proposed sculpture.

The maquette as presented to the project jury. (I decided early on that I shouldn't paint the eye, but presented it as an option)

Project Narrative:


“Authors Of Our Own Destiny”
Writing the book of our lives and sharing our experience with others is the theme of this sculpture. The stories of thousands of years of recorded history are preserved for us and presented to us in our libraries. This sculpture celebrates that record and encourages sharing the experience by either contributing or bearing witness to our own stories.

The sculpture consists of a large, blank book standing open to receive stories from the audience. High above the book is an eye representing the reader. Through the marks we make today, future generations can look back and read our story and learn from who we were. Our stories will teach and inspire posterity. To highlight this idea, a few inspirational quotes from people who made a lasting impression on history, will be written on the pages of the book. To link the monument sign to the landmark sculpture, and the landmark to the library, a large pair of folded reading glasses will be leaning casually against sign in the entry plaza.

The book, mounted at ground level and fabricated from steel, is about 10’ x 15’ x 1.5’ and rests at about a 30 degrees from vertical against a concrete pillar with the quotes written in raised steel letters. The 5’ - 6’ diameter eye, fabricated from steel and bronze, is suspended ~18’ above (at it’s lowest point) looking down on the book and is gimbaled to allow it to blink and look around occasionally in the wind. The book is finished with automotive epoxy with the pages painted off white and the cover a dark, rich red, blue, or green. The reading glasses, fabricated from stainless steel, stand about 8’tall.

The eye is a large, bold, dynamic presence to attract attention and provide a clear landmark for the library. It is symbolic of knowledge, inquiry, study, reading, exploration, and discovery. It is playful and accessible to the broad spectrum of people that are the audience for this sculpture.

The book is the core of the concept. As the sculpture is sited in a high traffic area amidst a college campus, high school, public library, and community center, I wanted to encourage interaction with the audience. Therefore the open book pages are left blank to allow the public to write, draw, paint or otherwise embellish the surface with their own ideas, thoughts, words, images, or whatever they imagine. Literally authoring their own stories. In a short time the layers of graffiti will combine to give the book a colorful abstract appearance when viewed at a distance. The library, high school, community center, college or other local groups can use it as a canvass for creative projects. Being situated at a public library associated with a high school and near a college campus I see the sculptue not only as a forum for visual expression but also as an opportunity to examine concepts of art; what is art? is public art different than private art? and free expression; what does free speech/expression mean? is there a difference between public and private speech.

Set a short distance from and facing the book would be a photo stand. A simple platform with alignment marks allowing one to take photos of the book with a fixed composition allowing a periodic (daily/weekly/monthly) record to be kept of the creativity expressed in the book. These photographs could be collected in a book, published on a website or presented as an animated timeline.


Revised maquette to better reflect what the finished piece would look like for the review panels.

Composite images of the maquette for reference during the fabrication.

After getting the contract ironed out and signed, and getting a the initial payment (this can take an astonishingly long time); the first stage of a project like this isto order materials, line up fabrication, and get the engineering started for permits and structural fabrication. Engineering was required for the concrete "Book Plaza", the "Book" support and attachment to the plaza, the pole that supports the eye, the connection of the eye to the pole, and the attachment of the "Glasses" to the library entrance plaza.

I started right in on fabrication of the "Glasses" since there was no stuctural fabrication required. Although I probably could have done the fabrication of the glasses myself, I decided that someone with the experience and equipment to weld stainless steel tubing could do it better and faster and was worth the investment. I found the guys at SVS Muffler eager for the challenge of trying something out of the ordinary, and they did a great job.

"Glasses" fabrication:

I also ordered some materials and began the structural fabrication of the "Eye" and had Gerlinger Steel begin fabrication of the "Book".

Beginning "Book" fabrication:

From here there was almost a year of delays due to budget problems delaying the library construction and waiting for the engineering to be completed and reviewed by the California Division of the State Architect (DSA). The review was finally completed and engineering drawings approved mid December 2009. This cleared me to have the "Book" plaza built, the "Book" fabrication completed, the "Eye" support pole fabricated and installed, and the "Book" installed. (About a week after the DSA approval, I was asked if I could have the project finished by the January 7th opening)

Completion of the engineering/DSA approval was a contract landmark for a progress payment, as was completion of the book. At this point I could pay for the materials so I began in earnest, fabrication of the "Eye."

A few sketches during the engineering and plaza planning:

Completed "Book" fabrication:

Painting the "Book":

Gerlinger was very kind andlet me paint at their shop.

The finished piece:

Installation of the glasses was straightforward:


Delivery and installation of the "Book":

While this was going on, I also continued fabrication of the "Eye."


Delivery and installation of the "Eye":

Getting it to the site:

Painting the support pole:



The completed installation:


The Christening:

Sacramento aerosol artist Anthony Padilla was commissioned to create a mural to innaugurate the sculpture.