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Eye-catching artwork at OC Carnegie Library

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Oregon City Library Director Maureen Cole, left, and Lynda Orzen, curator of the temporary sculpture garden, cozy up to 'Big Mouth.'The big birthday bash for Oregon City’s Carnegie Library will not take place until June 19 through 22, but a temporary sculpture garden has arisen to get citizens in the mood to celebrate.

Four sculptures are placed in the park in front of the library, and the pieces already are catching the public’s eye, said Library Director Maureen Cole.

“People are driving by, and they stop and come to look and take photos,” she said, adding that she wanted to “spruce up the library and its grounds, so it will look really nice for its big day.”

The outdoor exhibit was local sculptor Ben Dye’s idea, said Lynda Orzen, who works with the Friends of the Oregon City Library, and who curated the exhibit.

“He said he would love to see some public art in Oregon City, and we had the 100-year celebration coming up, so I put out invitations to sculptors that I knew, and three of them came,” Orzen said.

In addition to Dye’s piece, “Hippocampus,” on display are “Big Mouth,” by Tualatin’s Steve Farris, and “Revelation” and “Wind-swept Bonsai,” by Oregon City’s Todd Rau.

All three men use all or mostly recycled materials for their pieces. The sculptures will be on display until July 31, Orzen said.

‘Hippocampus’

Is it a horse? Is it a fish? Dye said he based his piece on early 1800s carousel carvings, only his version is indeed, half horse, half fish.

“In all the myths, Neptune’s and the water gods’ chariots are pulled by these creatures,” Dye said.

He used all recycled materials, including an above-ground heating oil tank. The colors already were on the steel, he said, adding that the distinctive blue-green is from a well-pressure tank.

Dye wanted to be part of the temporary sculpture garden because he likes to take advantage of “any chance I get to promote public art, public sculpture in Oregon City.”

‘Big Mouth’

Farris, who started out as a boat builder, also uses recycled materials, and “Big Mouth” is constructed from a farm fuel tank.

The name of the piece has a double meaning — the opening on top looks like a big-mouth jar, Farris said. But he really came up with the title as a reminder.

“When I met with Lynda I agreed to do this, but then she hit us with a deadline, and I realized I had a piece half done that I needed to finish. When I got started on it, it was taking longer, since I always try to change my method. About halfway I wished I could have kept my big mouth shut,” he said.

Farris said he likes to support a project like the one at the Carnegie Library, because it is a small effort and not corporate backed.

“I did it to support the library, to raise awareness that the library always needs funds, and this one is an icon worth preserving,” he said.

He added: “This is the best example of public art. It raises people’s awareness of how pretty a spot can be and brings them into the surroundings. Art makes everything better.”

‘Revelation’ and ‘Wind-swept Bonsai’

“I get all my materials from the scrap yard,” said Rau, adding that both his pieces are made from carbon steel. He has been a welder since high school and was always taught that welding is an art form.

The title of “Revelation” came about because he is trying to express a “born-again experience. Spirituality is an inner journey, and a lot of people don’t find it in a lifetime,” he said.

Rau added that there can be a “real beauty involved in an inner breakthrough,” so this piece has stainless steel on the inside and lesser materials on the outside, to give the illusion of “something contained.”

He used old snow-tire chains to construct “Wind-swept Bonsai,” he said.

The opportunity to be part of the sculpture garden at the Carnegie Library is a win-win, Rau said, since he gets to support public art and show his work at the same time.

“Nowadays, they are cutting down on art in the classroom. I want to let children know there is a field out there called art. Art can change a community. It is important to interact with the community — art provokes some kind of feeling, like wonder,” he said.

Birthday bash

The Oregon City Carnegie Library will turn 100 years old on June 21, and staff members did not want to miss the opportunity to throw the building a party, Cole said.

On June 19, the city commissioners will issue a congratulatory proclamation. On June 20, the library will be the site of the OC Chamber of Commerce after-hours event, and June 21 will see a night devoted to history.

The “big big day” will be celebrated on June 22, with a number of activities, including an author fair at Atkinson Memorial Church, an open house at the fire station across the street, and a community ceremony in front of the library at 11 a.m.

Dignitaries in attendance that day will include Paulann Peterson, Oregon’s Poet Laureate, State Librarian MaryKay Dahgreen and author Matt Love, who grew up in Oregon City.

“Mayor Doug Neeley will appear as John McLoughlin and former Mayor Alice Norris will perform a skit depicting the first day of the early library. There will be music, crafts, face painting” and more, Cole said.

“One of our staff members will dress up like Andrew Carnegie, and Marge and Rolla Harding will appear in period dress,” she added.

Learn more

The Oregon City Carnegie Library is at 606 John Adams Street. Call 503-657-8269.

Learn more about Ben Dye at BenDyeSculpture.com; email Steve Farris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; and visit Todd Rau’s website at toddrau.com.



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