Beyond the Blue

Beyond the Blue by Michael Cain

A Public Art Commission for Palm Harbor Library
Beyond the Blue

Beyond the Blue artwork, created by Michael Cain, was installed at Palm Harbor Library in January 2009.

Beyond the Blue’s original inspiration emanated from Jack and the Beanstalk. After hours of brainstorming to come up with a theme for the project, the artist kept returning to the phrase, “Knowledge is the seed of our own creativity.” The metaphor of how Jack’s beans grew into something that took him beyond his own imagination is how the artist looks upon literature in general. Furthermore, he sees a library as a warehouse for those seeds of creativity. The more experience we draw upon, the more we grow. The more we grow, the more we want to express our own ideas.  Of course, Jack’s motivation came from a less-than-altruistic view, so the symbol of the beanstalk evolved into that of the lotus flower, which represents, depending upon the color, mental purity, compassion or wisdom. The artist chose this symbol for the imagery of the first totem (left side).

With that in mind, Mr. Cain looked at other environments that embody the concept of exploration, especially in relation to storytelling. The quintessential setting for man’s quest for knowledge almost always comes back to the sea. The shapes atop the third totem (right side) represent maritime flags, and the images fixed to the wall refer to the power of the sea in relation to its importance in literature. The eye on the second totem (middle) represents vision, in a metaphorical sense, similar to how the book in the first totem represents the seed of knowledge. To brave a real exploration of the sea, and to plot out the course of a story, one needs a strong sense of vision. From this comes the phrase describing the third totem, “The landmark that guides our course of action.”

The purpose of a library goes further than storing books and information. It is a place one can go to for solitude. But, it is also a gathering place. From children’s storytelling to book clubs, and other group activities, the local library becomes a community meeting place. Thus, the second totem pays homage to the essence of that communal connection and is the reason for the third phrase, “The foundation that strengthens our community.”

Standing at just above three feet in height, the book mounted in the center of the installation acts as a focal point for people of almost any stature. The completed phrase that signifies each of the three totems, “Knowledge is the seed of our own creativity, the foundation that strengthens our community, and the landmark that guides our course of action” is embossed onto the surface of the book. When we pick up a book and invest the time in reading it, in a way, the book becomes part of us. There is a continual interplay between people and the written word. We all place ourselves in context within the stories we can relate to.  Thus, it is the symbol that ties all of the visual components together. In addition, the book is engraved with the name of the artist.

The materials for the entire work consist of fabricated aluminum and cast glass, with LED lighting integrated into all components, with the exception of the polished aluminum book. The columns for the totem-like structures are fabricated out of steel for support. Lighting is achieved primarily through LED in a variety of colors. The majority of the illumination is in the form of halo-lighting. The entire artwork is built in relief. Each layer that protrudes has the LED strips mounted to the back and shines on the layer behind. The waves and flying books on the wall shine in blue and white.  The result is a spectacular structure when viewed in the daytime. A magical transformation takes place at dusk when the artwork becomes bathed in the glow of the colorful LED lights. In order to fully appreciate Beyond the Blue, one should view the art in both daylight and at night.