1080 University Ave. St. Paul, MN

Pioneer Press, St. Paul article Oct 15, 2022

The LIBRARYMUSEUM project aims to metaphorically open long-closed windows and give viewers a particular view to the interior of a formerly public-serving building fallen into disuse, including a library, theatre, and community space. This work is also positioned along an affected route in the extended aftermath of property destruction during the George Floyd uprisings, and while nodding to multitudes of expressions on protective plywood over windows throughout both of the Twin Cities, it reaches more directly to conceptual site intervention. 

Each of the 7 painted panels (60×60″, acrylic on canvas) provides a different invitation to pictorial interiors, and the meaning of each image are explained on a website via scan codes on the artwork: The Theatre (Centre Theatre); The Oculus (Forgotten Power); The Staircase (Past ∞ Future?); Breached Entry (Modern Ruins); ‘Plan for a Monumental Library’ (rendering of original image by Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728-1799); Window Stuffed with Books; Chandelier in a Tall Orange Room (Transposed Histories). 

I conceived of the project in the spring of 2022. The beauty and novelty of the deco-era architecture drew me in, and long after the windows were boarded up over time and the green copper color began to peel away to exposed tar paper and frames, making these strange vessels look spooky and sad, the idea to reanimate the windows emerged. I began working on it in July, and made the first installation October 9, 2022. A year later, the project was updated with 2 new paintings and the addition of text on October 10, 2023. The second install also included 2 reprints of paintings that had vanished off the building, as well as a repainted version of a third which had gone missing. The mounts were made more permanent and secure on the second iteration.

I hope that viewers will pause to observe the mysterious beauty of neglected places, contemplate the people and stories that have occurred in this place, and imagine themselves reaching towards the theater, the library, the community center, and the living entity of architecture itself. Please respect the project so others may experience it.

Claiming the strange, sad, falling-apart window-vestibules on a buzzing building with a history hard to define, lay down to rest (not the whole building, just the vestibules, but what those represent, the broken entrance points, the formerly framed emerald green slats, but now tar papered peeling, breaking portals to interiors that reach beyond rooms in the dark) (the whole building can be redone) 

Reanimating the windows, opening them properly by peering into my/ourselves 

Searching for the inside of a space, longing for unknown interior / a vantage point that i will knowingly never encounter

Searching for what layers look like between fact and fiction; where they dissolve into one place

There is nothing to be found, just sensed : dark interior that i’m only seeing through surmising and layering meaning 

It is not about revitalization / not necessarily serving anyone / not questioning anything/ or changing anything

No, it’s none of those

You can only feel what it feels like when someone rips apart an old wooden window frame which will never exist again, a building from the 1940’s, for no good reason 

Not for protest, not for shelter, not for George Floyd / just for the sake of breaking something; breaking open (or copper) 

done as its own action, its own cadence / without blessing, a funding structure, organizational knowledge, or a proprietor  

The labor of a durational painting practice, molded into daily realities that cannot be cast aside, 125 square feet of canvas, and the transportive moments where I am able to fleetingly live inside of that space through painting, enlivening  

…..It Just happened in an extended moment, born from dreams and partial views of places.

A gesture, a dedication, a revision, a protective layer?

…… It wasn’t there, and now it is. 

Panel 1: The Theatre 

I woke up one morning last winter after dreaming about a cold, dark, black and white theater with a big ledge on one side. In my dream, I heard the word “Victoria” over and over. I looked it up online immediately upon waking up, and was surprised to find the actual place a few blocks down on the other side of University, which I’d never heard of. The photo I used for the painting was maybe somewhere in London – I found the closest thing that looked like my dream, but was still called Victoria. 

Centre Theatre really did exist in the 1940s in Rondo, and I intend to learn more. It’s cool, quiet, and belongs on my constellation of places I enter in near-lucid dreams, which turn out to be clues or cues about the permeable layers between planes or realities. I wouldn’t have known any of this, had it not appeared randomly in a dream first. 

Panel 2: The Oculus 

I imagine what it would feel like to enter the building and find myself standing in a towering space with a lonely skylight far above, bathing the room in a dim, milky light you can almost smell, where something is still living but mostly forgotten. A window within a window, the Oculous is a reference from Charleoi, an abandoned power plant in Belgium, which is about to be torn down, or is in process of. Maybe almost like this place. Unabashedly, I am filled with urbex FOMO. 

The vertical blinds of 1080’s formerly operational windows now open to the ocular skylight, and the crumbled sheetrock takes on a magical quality in the diffused light, almost like being underwater, drawing you further in. 

Panel 3: The Staircase 

Vertical blinds are open a bit further on this window, allowing you to easily step into a sort of liminal utopic ascension point. The stairs are simple and easy to climb, and once you get to the blue part, you can fall right in. There is a pipe hanging, broken, off the ceiling, up on the second floor, visible in the square window from the parking lot….but that’s a small matter in the face of such pure and unemcumbered possibility, isn’t it? 

The Staircase is a contemplation of the ubiquity of architecture through the centuries. 

Panel 4: Breached Entry

From the first side channel, you can’t see the chandelier yet (but around the corner, you’ll be able to.) 

You can only see the forced entry and crumbled sheetrock

A white desk and its cubby holes, a folding metal chair  

Ceilings that try feebly to reach out while sinking into dark shadows like bruises  

Lights with cords hanging down 

Switches and fixtures 

I documented the Breached Entry point by wedging my torso under the plywood plank, so only my bottom half was exposed, and the rest of me was inside, inhaling the dust of the eras, but only for a split second.

9/3/22 On my mostly-daily drive-by, the same maroon car was parked in front of the broken vestibule. The breakage looked the same, but it still looked horrible. I wonder if anyone’s wondering why I go to this building every day. Looks like I’m not the only one. I’d really like to go inside more than anything, but I won’t go alone, and there’s nobody to join me. 

9/7 i went out into the humid evening to the site. Thankfully the window was boarded up properly again. This is for aesthetic reasons, of course, but i didn’t like the disorder of it. I didn’t like the gaping hole, the small glass-filled portal and i didn’t like wondering who was going in and what they were doing in there. I was also jealous and tempted to go inside, but then I might risk not being able to install. 

Panel 5: Chandelier in a Tall Orange Room 

And there is a same strange site from a dream: a tall, such a tall dark room in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria; carpeted, rust red colored, large rectangular columns reaching to the ceiling, in the dark

I borrowed the chandelier image from that train station and put the view of it in that room, so you can see it from the train, but also be in that dream i had 

And see it the way i saw it when i peered through the glass of 1080 2 years ago 

Drawn against the room with the crumbling ceiling and dusty mauve walls  

The street-facing view of the Librarymuseum