Literary art show comes to town
Earlier this year, the Lake Oswego Reads program distributed hundreds of copies of the book "Good Morning, Midnight" by Lily Brooks-Dalton to local book worms, including Lake Oswego artist Jani Hoberg.
Blanketed with scribbles in the margins, lines under important passages and notes in the back of the book, Hoberg's copy might not sell at a used book store.
As one of 20 professional artists who contributed to a traveling display of art based on Brooks-Dalton's novel, Hoberg visualized and contemplated how to mutate the words on the page into a compelling piece of art.
Hoberg was one of 20 professional artists who contributed to a traveling display of art based on Brooks-Dalton's novel and the Wilsonville Public Library is the program's last stop on its tour through Oregon. The program is organized by the Lake Oswego Public Library, the exhibit will last through November and art is available for purchase. For more information, visit https://www.ci.oswego.or.us/loreads.
"Taking the literary word and making it visual, it really is a great challenge. It personally makes me think very differently," Hoberg said. "You have to not take yourself too seriously. You have to open yourself up."
Lake Oswego Public Library Program coordinator Cyndie Glazer said when the program started about a dozen years ago, artists were sometimes confused about the concept. But now, she said there's a waiting list to get into it.
"It really challenges them because they never know what book we are going to pick," Glazer said.
"Good Morning, Midnight" features a scientist in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return home, both of whom cope with a catastrophic event on earth.
"We had never done anything talking about the end of the world yet it took place in the arctic," Glazer said. "The committee thought that after doing nonfiction (the previous year) it was a good book to pick. And we're glad we did."
The artists depict the awe-inspiring landscapes they imagine from the text and explored themes such as isolation, a failed connection, the interconnectivity of living things and communication. Glazer felt that the poignant novel brought out the best in the artists.
"Each was distinctive and reveals the artist's own message for what they got out of the book but I think the quality of the art was the best ever in 12 years," Glazer said.
Hoberg said that while some artists try to recreate a descriptive passage in the book, she tried to encapsulate the overarching feeling of the characters — exhaustion.
"For me this was a book about beginnings and endings. To me that felt tiring and exhausting. So I created this polar bear that was rusting. It was exhausted trying to figure out what was going to happen next to Earth," Hoberg said. "If the stars are indeed looking down on earth it must have been exhausting looking down and watching what was happening."
One of Glazer's favorite pieces depicts a polar bear sitting on top of earth, which is subsumed in water.
"That to me really symbolized the book," Glazer said.
Through the program, the Lake Oswego library brings in the author of the chosen book for a presentation. And every year, the author visits the art display. Glazer said many of the authors have been shocked and appreciative of the quality of the displays. And Glazer said that this year, after her favorite work had been sold, Brooks-Dalton requested the artist craft a replica of the piece for the author.
"I think most of the authors have thought, 'Oh it's going to look like third grade art.' And instead every single one of them has been thrilled and ecstatic," she said.
Having to read through a novel closely and lug their art to venues across Oregon might be more work for an artist than the average exhibit. But Hoberg said it's well worth it.
"I think it's really enjoyable. It's fun to connect a book with a visual show. It's a little bit different," she said. "Anything that gets people to read and look at art, two of my great loves, you bet I'm going to be a part of that."