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This is the first in a series of pieces from the Evanston Public Library’s blog The Book Bird. In this series, Betsy Bird counts down “The Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Evanston Public Library.”
#10: Meet Our Gigantic Floating Head
Imagine you’ve stepped foot into the main location of Evanston Public Library for the very first time (it’s easy if you try). You have no guide. No one telling you where things are or where to find anything.
There’s a remarkably friendly concierge greeting you as you walk in, but beyond that you’re on your own. You enter the wide lobby and look about. To your left, the children’s room, the Most Wanteds, and a small area where books are for sale.
To your right, the checkout area. And if you felt an uncontrollable urge to cast your eyes skyward, there you would see our sculpture. Our beauty. Our Ghostwriter.
It may not look like much at first. A seemingly disparate collection of floating ephemera. Go up the stairs a bit and you can make out the teeny tiny statues at play. Some scissors. A hand. Birds in flight. A droplet of water released from gravity for a moment, mid-splash.
Each and every time you walk by it you see something new. It’s pretty, really. You may begin to acquire a new appreciation of it as you walk up the stairs to your destination. What you may miss, however, is the most impressive aspect of all.
This isn’t just a random collection of interesting detritus.
Back up, squint your eyes, and it begins to come together for you.
Constructed by artists Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schechter, Helmick describes the piece as, “a three-dimensional Pointillist structure. Conceptually, the artwork is a ‘portrait’ of imagination and learning, a metaphor for the creative process.”
They also explain how it’s made of 3,000 cast metal forms and that, if you look closely, you’ll see that some of the 1,500 letters inside spell out words. I’ve looked many times but the words elude me. You may have better luck.
Originally commissioned by the Evanston Arts Council as part of the City of Evanston’s Public Art Program, EPL describes the work this way: “Within the piece there are 25 references to world sculpture and 24 intentional words. There are several Evanston images, including leaves of trees that grow in this area, the Grosse Pointe Lighthouse, and a map of the community. Some of the images were suggested by Evanston residents and by people involved in the library building project.”
Don’t try figuring out who the head is though. “The head is both androgynous and a composite of world racial and ethnic types.”
If the piece strikes you as somewhat familiar, there may be a good reason for that. Mr. Helmick created the “Rara Avis” statue in Chicago’s Midway Airport.
It’s cute, but let’s be honest. It’s no “Ghostwriter.” For that, you have to go to the library.