Commission for Lithgow Library
This is a new painting commissioned by the Friends of Lithgow Library to commemorate the new library.
Stories from the Mezzanine
painting by Christopher Cart
46.5 x 46.5 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2016
The Friends of Lithgow Library asked me to create a painting commemorating and celebrating the old and new Lithgow Library. Since many of my public commissions, such as the murals Kennebec in the Capital Judicial Center and City of Ships in Bath, fold together time periods, this was right up my artistic alley.
Painting the beautiful architecture, stone, stained glass and lovely wood was a must. This gave the lush stage set for the characters of Stories from the Mezzanine.
The founder of the library from the 1890’s, Llewellyn Lithgow was the first to come to life in the painting. He was a contemporary of Henry Longfellow so I thought it might be interesting if they were having a chat. The library’s current director Betsy Pohl, joined their conversation as the painting’s composition developed. I like this joining of times, our current days with the library days of the 1890’s, bookends to the century and more between.
I see the painting as a tribute to Maine authors as well, so in addition to Longfellow, the poet Edna St Vincent Millay and novelist Stephen King both make appearances.
On the shelves of the library are housed wonderful stories, vibrant adventures and vast knowledge. When we crack open a book the stories within and the characters living there become real around us. These characters live in our minds and hearts and can be powerful influences on us in our daily lives. The people in our favorite books may live with us for years, long after we have closed the pages of the stories they inhabit. They have been dormant, quietly waiting for us to read again. The painting tells this story.
So I opened several of my favorite books and let characters live amongst the ‘real’ people in the painting; Huck Finn created by Mark Twain, young Pip from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and, of course, Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Two other people in the painting are library patrons, checking out books. What is a library without people who want to read?
Finally, the shelves are filled with real books. I included some of my favorites and others with covers I liked. Ultimately, the books on the shelves were placed carefully to fill the painting’s compositional needs of color, value and pattern.
This painting is a celebration of written words and the beautiful historic building that keeps them safe for us.