Libraries are about more than books. They also offer magazines, music, movies, a space for quiet reflection and, especially in Ketchikan: Art.
The newest piece of art for the new Ketchikan Public Library building is a hanging installation called “A Trip to the Library.” Artists Evon Zerbertz and Rich Stage were at the library after hours on Saturday, working out the logistics of hanging the complex piece.
As Zerbetz watches, getting a crick in her neck from looking up, Stage noisily elevates the lift 25 feet into the air, to bolt the sculpture, swathed in bubble wrap, into place.
Art isn’t usually that loud. Neither are libraries, for that matter. But once it’s in place, the newly installed artwork will be quiet, albeit full of movement, both real and implied.
The name of the piece, “A Trip to the Library,” is a play on words. It portrays a young man who has stumbled on his way out.
“He has found so many books in this library that he wants to read, that he has amassed this huge stack of books,” Zerbetz said. “As he leaves, they are just flying through the air.”
Zerbetz and Stage knew they wanted a young man for the main sculpture. Zerbetz says she loves the “guys read” campaign that encourages reading among boys.
The sculpture was modeled after a real person, who agreed to endure, well, here’s Zerbetz again to explain the process.
“We used Andy Pankow for the head cast,” she said. “He was incredible. He had rubber – I don’t know how many pounds – like five or six pounds of rubber and plaster on his head for two to three hours. I don’t think very many people can do that.”
Stage then sculpted the resin head cast, so it doesn’t really look like the model anymore. Stage, who was reluctant but not completely opposed to talking on the record, also created the metal-frame skeleton for the piece, which isn’t as heavy as it looks.
“It’s under a ton,” he said. “It’s all wire frame. It probably weighs 70 pounds. So he’s all hollow inside.”
The main steel rod goes from the sculpture’s foot to wrist, and those two points are bolted to either side of the library’s main glassed-in entrance area. They built a replica of that entrance in Zerbetz’s driveway, to plan the piece out and make sure they had the dimensions right.
The idea for the installation came out of a brainstorming session.
We were going through the ubiquitous fish and birds, but we already did that,” Zerbetz said. “We wanted to do something really different, and Rich is always full of puns.”
Zerbetz and Stage have collaborated before. One of those projects is an installation piece at Fawn Mountain Elementary School that involves all kinds of flying creatures bursting out of pillars in the school’s main corridor. That piece also had lots of parts, and required some interesting engineering to install.
“We like it complicated,” she said, laughing. “Actually we don’t really like it complicated, we
just specialize in complicated.”
Other art pieces already installed at the library include metal sculptures by the Salvage Divas, Rhonda Green and Anne Fitzgerald, depicting Alaska wildlife; and a colorful, whimsical fabric tree in the children’s section. The tree was created by Ann Carlson, Sherry Henrickson, Jackie Keizer and Deb Turnbull.
Another piece still to be installed is a carved Northwest Coast –style medallion by master carver Nathan Jackson.
As of Monday, the entryway art installation wasn’t quite done. It should be completed early this week.