Never one to think about life in a positive way regardless of the situation, I am certainly not going to advise anyone to stop thinking about these things. But amidst all of the negativity, I do know that there is at least one positive thing that happened in Milwaukee this week, and that is the East Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library finally opened, and it is beautiful!
The new location is one thousand times better than the library's previous temporary home, which was a tiny room in a strip mall next to a hair salon. (Or was it a laundromat? I can't remember). This was frustrating for me, a person who loves to spend hours wandering through libraries and flipping through books. Visiting the old site of this library was like getting ready to go on vacation to Hawaii and then being told that you accidentally booked a plane to Indiana. (No offense Indiana). I visited the new building for the first time this afternoon, and spent two hours looking at the new building, new books, and lots of new art. The best part: Everything. But also, the variety of art made by local Milwaukee artists.
Kathryn E. Martin, Topos (Part One)
Kathryn E. Martin, Topos (Part Two)
Kathryn E. Martin's installation is located in the atrium of the library, just to the left of the circulation desk. Part One is a topographical map of Milwaukee's East Side, CNC-carved from Honey Locust and Ash trees. Part Two is a bench attached to a pillar for either relaxation or observation of the map.
Santiago Cucullu, Blue Like Just After the Rain
Santiago Cucullu, Again Like an Orange of Affirmation and Selection
Santiago Cucullu and I go way back. Okay, not really. I once thought that I accidentally insulted him at a wedding, but then later found out that he was not actually offended and was pretending to be irked just to mess with me. (I'm not sure which is worse). Awkward story aside, I love these photographic collages printed onto wallpaper. The blue piece is located on the ceiling of the library's study room, while the orange piece acts as a mural in the main library space. If you know Milwaukee well, look closely at the pieces. You might recognize some of the landmarks in the photographs, which were taken in the neighborhoods surrounding Milwaukee's other MPL locations.
Ray Chi, Serpent
Currently covered in snow, it is hard to capture a photograph of Ray Chi's public sculpture, Serpent. It resembles a waterslide made out of grass that begs to be climbed on in warmer times (and after the grass has grown in). Chi was a recipient of the Mary Nohl Fellowship last year, and is currently showing pieces at INOVA, the Gallery of the Peck School of Arts. Another of Ray's pieces, a sculptural bike rack entitled Rack, is on view at the library as well.
Prophet Blackmon, Untitled
The new library is not limited to contemporary art. This piece by legendary Milwaukee folk artist Prophet Blackmon is one of several pieces of Modern and American art hung around the library. It's hard to miss all the art, even if it is just an accessory to the stunning new building. For me this library is an awesome achievement for the city of Milwaukee, combining two of my favorite things: libraries and art. It shows that both are very much alive and important to this city. I'm so glad to have this library so close to my home where I can go to look at art and books whenever I want.
Now, time for you to leave me alone to get started on the modest arsenal I acquired today.
Get off your butt and go to the library!