Rita Lombardi’s work examining the reading experience on display at local art institute

By Ghada Emish ’19

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On Libraries, a current exhibition at the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Insti- tute in Utica, explores the values reading adds to our lives. The exhibition opened last October and will remain on  view  until  April  2017.

Artist Rita Lombardi composed On Libraries from a series of photographs she took of different sections in libraries, such as corners, gates and outside views, around the nation. Through her skillfully taken photographs, Lombardi urges viewers to contemplate their reading ex- perience at different libraries.

The exhibition starts with photographs of children’s corners in libraries. “Chil- dren’s Room,” the featured image of On Libraries, is a photograph of the window in the children’s area at Clinton Library. In the photograph, the toys of wild animals are in-focus, positioned towards the window which leads to a view of the trees and plants outside the library, this creat- ing the impression that these animals are in the wilderness, where they belong. Interestingly, many children’s  books and fiction tales are based on plots whose protagonists are talking animals with qualities that  speak  to  human values.

Children spend a large part of their time fantasizing about fiction stories, which become an integral part of their lives as they grow up. The animals in “Children’s Room” are a metaphor of childrens’ fertile imagination, which is not yet restrained by the facts of adult life. The lessons that children learn from reading never die, but as children grow older, they are not necessarily aware of the persistence of these les- sons in their lives. The photo- graphs in On Libraries act as a beautiful reminder of this.

“View  from  Centennial Wing” is a photograph of the phenomenal area outside Cam- den Public Library in Maine. This kind of view is unique in that it is not the typical street view; rather, it is a breathtak- ing pier at sunset. The orange- tinted sky is reflected on the water surface, along with the small still boats. There are scattered trees without leaves, which never looked so beautiful but this particular setting smoothes the coarseness of anything. It also relaxes the readers who lift their heads from  the  engrossing  worlds laid out for them in ink to gaze at this view from behind the windows of the Centen- nial Wing at Camden Library. “Last  Print  Issue”  is  a photograph of an elegant library. In the far distance, there is a huge arch in the ceiling, below which there are large rectangular windows that frame a beautiful view of trees in bloom. The elegant décor and architecture of the library add a sacred feeling to the time spent there. The walls are embellished with paintings, the high ceiling with simple chandeliers and the floor with elaborately  detailed  rugs.

The process of thinking that takes place at the library is also sacred since it is one  of rediscovery. The area in the foreground is  composed of two armchairs on which the sunlight is gracefully cast, making this area appear to offer an intimate reading ex- perience in the warmth of the sun. This intimate space/corner is where people contemplate the topics they read about and extend their contemplation to  the world outside the library, especially that the sunlight cues the location of a window opposite  to  the  armchairs.

Lombardi establishes the friendliness  of  the  library space, and articulates that the reading experience, which people carry out since infancy, is quite promising. Lombardi has created this profound ef- fect  by  taking  photographs under one theme and pausing to think about each of them. Perhaps everybody should do the same in order to appreciate an experience as simple and  meaningful  as  reading.


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