It is difficult to imagine a more fitting theme for an art exhibition displayed at a library than one currently showing at the Des Plaines Public Library titled Readers. Steven Wagner, local artist and member of the Des Plaines Art Guild, produced 40 paintings in his series, 14 of which are on display at the library throughout November.
The images include soldiers reading mail from home, a man proofreading a passport, a woman immersed in fantastic stories, a boy inspired to pick up a book and more.
Wagner, who had another series of his work about the history of Terre Haute, IN, on display at the Des Plaines library from February to March, stated in an email to Patch that he was drawn to the idea of reading because it is a good human activity.
“These paintings of mail calls and getting orders are humane, human goodness, us at our best, even in the middle of a combat zone,” Wagner stated.
Wagner, who, in addition to his career as an artist, has been a linguist for the U.S. Army, a journalist, a passenger service worker for Delta Air Lines and a college professor, said one of the paintings that other members of the Des Plaines Art Guild favored depicts his mentor, Ed Dougal, writing and reading a poem about the significance of reading.
French poet Stephane Mallarme’s theory of reading as writing, writing as reading, and, combined, reading and writing as “human creativity par excellence,” is represented in the images throughout the series, Wagner stated.
“Each picture tells this story, which calls out to read,” Wagner stated.
Paintings from Readers on display at the library include:
- A stylized image of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who was credited with saving the lives of 10’s of thousands of Hungarian Jews, proofreading a document that served as a passport for Jews called a Schutz-Pass in his Vienna office.
- Wagner’s wife is shown with flowers and fruits and a wild animal, a deer, at her feet, rapt in the Fantasia of the Library.
- Wagner’s son is depicted in another painting in his Readers series. “[He] was supposed to be in the midst of struggling with his homework when I found him reading the Hunger Games,” Wagner stated. “I couldn’t find fault with that, now could I?”
The Readers art exhibition, free and open to the public, is displayed on the third floor of the Des Plaines Public Library, 1501 Ellinwood St., throughout November.