"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)
“Authors Of Our Own
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
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
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.
I also ordered some materials and
began the structural fabrication of the "Eye"
and had Gerlinger Steel begin fabrication of the "Book".
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
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:
Sacramento aerosol artist Anthony
Padilla was commissioned to create a mural to innaugurate