Creating the images
The principle of "knowledge sustains the community" led the artists to involve librarians and patrons in the creation of the artwork. With one exception, all the people in the windows are patrons who generously agreed to pose as models, expressing the atmosphere of inquiry inspired by the library.
Images of the historic texts, maps, rare books and cuneiform tablets seen in the windows came from the collection of The Seattle Public Library, as well as the Lewis & Clark College Library in Portland, the John Wilson Room of the Multnomah County Library's Central Library in Portland, the Library of Congress, and the Iraq Museum International in Baghdad.
Many of these texts refer in some way to a journey, beginning with the cuneiform text of Babylonian king Gilgamesh's journey of self-discovery into the woods more than four thousand years ago.
As D'Agostino videotaped the contemplative faces of library patrons imagining themselves as characters in their favorite books, she said she was reminded all over again what amazing discoveries can be made inside the walls of a library.
Creating the glass
Each image originally was created either through digital video, or as a digital photograph. They were put together in layers on a computer and manipulated to create the basic images seen in the windows.
To create the glass windows, the artists worked with Henrietta Derix of Derix Glass Studios in Taunusstein, Germany, a family-run studio in operation since the mid-1800s.
Each pane is made of three images or color layers and three layers of glass. Two layers of glass were either individually silk-screened with glass enamels or hand-painted to produce the double-layered images.
In addition, each panel has a layer of transparent glass enamel color airbrushed over the surface. All the color is fired and tempered on and then the panes are laminated together in a safety glass panel. Finally, the art glass panes are put together in an insulated glass unit with a sacrificial layer of glass designed to prevent vandalism.
Portland artist Fernanda D'Agostino approaches each public art project and design team collaboration as an opportunity to create a poetic space uniquely suited to its site and audience. Over a dozen years of experience working with virtually all materials suited for public art allow her to create work that feels indigenous to its place, whether it be a gritty urban train station, a library, or a pristine wetland. Successful design team collaborations with landscape architects, architects and engineers have resulted in integrated works that have a sense of inevitability and dramatic impact. D'Agostino sees public art as a kind of mirror to the community that can reveal hidden aspects of a particular time and place, and tell people a story about themselves that they might not have known before. D'Agostino was the lead artist on the Greenwood Branch project.
Portland artist Valerie Otani sees public art as connecting people to a site and strengthening the impact of a place in the context of urban design. Creating lively public spaces with artwork that intrigues, challenges and inspires us is part of a larger goal of improving the quality of civic life. Much of her work has been on design teams, identifying opportunities and maximizing the impact of art in a total project, then doing a project as well. Her work reveals an unknown aspect of everyday experience - a revelation that creates a bond linking us to our place in our community. Otani provided design team collaboration on the Greenwood Branch project.
See Art at the Greenwood Branch for more information.