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Art in Public Places

September 12, 2005

When the library first became a venue for “Art in Public Places”a few years ago, we drilled holes and hammered nails everywhere. I quickly wished we’d installed hanging rails first.

The old plaster in the Carnegie building is very hard. White dust would pile on the wainscot as I drilled. Then the dust turned cinnamon as I went through an old lath.

Occasionally, it would turn red when I hit structural brick. It’s probably best that I’m not a surgeon.

The scars of broken plaster, peeled paint, and smeared adhesive, accumulated until last week. Then, Sally Mather and Tim Martin of AVAC (Arkansas Valley Art Center) patched holes, painted the walls, and installed a “clip rail” system that makes hanging a show neat and simple.

“Art in Public Places” is an AVAC program, and Sally thought that the library venue needed some cosmetic surgery to make it more professional. She approached Cheri Schleicher at Wal-Mart for help, and Wal-Mart responded with a $700 donation that, along with Sally and Tim’s labor, completed the project.

The transformation is a pleasure to see. You might not notice at first, which is the desired response to an unobtrusive hanging system. Instead, you will immediately see Nancy Vickery’s work on the clean, white walls.

You might feel as if you were in a hushed gallery. Would that it were so, you say; we’re not always such a quiet place. Maybe the gallery feeling will pervade the rest of the library.

The works Nancy chose to hang will help, too. They are quiet, contemplative; they seem intent looking back at you. Several I like are numbered in a series titled “Heart of Darkness.” They’re not overtly dark, but neither are the titles tongue-in-cheek.

I smiled when I first saw them simply because that very day I’d been looking for our copy of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” but found it was lost.

Nancy’s show has monotypes, pastels, or a combination. My understanding is that the monotypes are like lithographs, except that they are gum arabic transfers from photographs printed on plain paper. The paper takes the place of the plate in the press.

And that’s all I know, except that the images are from a recent stay in Mexico, and they have been cut apart and re-assembled before printing. I’m intrigued. Artists are always making or remaking new technology.

I also like “Homage” that is hanging above the water fountain. And “Geology 101,” which greets you from the easel at the top of the stairs. In these perverse political times, it brings me joy.

Nancy’s prints invite contemplation. They have a lot of black, white, and gray and seem to invite reading. I thought of what a friend said in our recent correspondence about his Jackson Pollock project with his granddaughter, in which they construct large canvasses and splatter paint, only now with improved technology suggested by the young girl — they use large irrigation syringes to squirt the paint.

He said: “I give you that in any art I’ve seen that’s been deemed worth placing on the pedestal there has been something ineffable — even if I don’t like it — that catapaults it above the “amateur.” And we have plenty of that hanging in our hallways at the hospital [not Salida’s]. Bland colors. Structured, though not inspired or impassioned, landscapes. Art school, yes. Even a sort of talent at rendering. But hang it next to a Hopper landscape and you’ll see.”

Nancy’s show hangs through October. Middle school art students will show in November, high school in December.

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