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Meanwhile O Reader, 2008

Richard W. Bailey Library, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor

oil on canvas mounted on panels, 5’4” x 36’

The visual structure of this painting is based on the eighteen letters and spaces of its title, using images from my anthropomorphic alphabet. The painting paraphrases a passage from Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler:


And you, too, O Reader, are meanwhile an object of reading.


The lower frieze shows each of those eighteen images individually, each letter clearly defined by the shape of its individual panel. The upper frieze links those eighteen images into one continuous interlocking composition. 


The arrangement of forty-four panels echoes the architectural forms of the library and the books that are shelved within it. It addresses the stated mission of the library by using images based on letters of the alphabet, the most fundamental elements in a reading transaction. The letters themselves are then arranged into a statement about reading. The text and the painting both suggest that reading is contextual, recursive, and temporal, an act of duration while the world goes on. Not only do we read we are aware of ourselves reading, and thereby, too, of others reading. We are somehow doubled, as the image is doubled, our own reading selves mirrored in others. A painting about reading to prompt thinking about seeing.

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