Westminster Library unveils new sculpture

It has been about nine months since Union Bridge artist Jo Israelson first swung a hammer at an 18,000-pound slab of Indiana limestone, starting the process to create the third sculpture in the park outside the Westminster Branch Library.

In front of more than 20 people Thursday, Israelson unveiled the final product, a 9,000-pound sculpture entitled "Liber."


Liber, the Latin root word for library, meaning bark, was the historical inspiration for the sculpture, as bark was the basis for paper.

Israelson's work, in the shape of a chair, represents the transformation from bark to pages of a book.

Israelson said she was honored to have her work publicly displayed in Carroll County, after collaborating with community members in the planning process.

"It's an honor to be able to do that kind of work, because you work with people in your community and the product represents the thoughts of everybody," she said.

She said this is her first piece of art to be on public display in the county.

Liber has been in the planning stages since January 2012, when Israelson met with the sculpture garden committee to discuss a vision for the third piece added to the park.

Throughout her research for the project, Israelson said she looked at the Ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

She described it as more than just a library, but a community gathering place.

With her sculpture, she aimed to combine the historical aspect of libraries with the personal connection of how many people learn to read, which is in a seated position.

"No matter where you are in the history of libraries, somebody is sitting," she said. "They're either sitting in somebody's lap learning to read or they're sitting in a rocking chair or they're sitting on the ground."

Israelson said she finished the piece a couple of weeks ago, but just finished its polishing June 2. She expects to have to polish it again from the transportation to its new home outside of the library.

After many long, cold days carving the stone during the winter, Israelson said she owed a debt of gratitude to her friends who supported of her throughout the process.

"As an artist, even though it looks like you are working alone, you have to be supported by the community," she said.

"Liber" was funded in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. As the third sculpture added to the Mary Lou Dewey Sculpture Park in front of the library, it joins "Wild Imaginings," by local sculptor Bart Walter, and "Trilogy," which was created from one-billion-year old limestone donated by Lehigh Quarry.


Library spokeswoman Lisa Back said a piece by Toby Mendez will be the fourth and final sculpture added to the park, which opened in September 2010.

Back said Mendez's sculpture is still in the planning stages.