12 Paintings Acrylic on Canvas
8(5'x10') and 4(5'x14')

Elaine Pawlowicz
Artist Statement of Concept
Oriole Park Branch Library

The images for this project were inspired by both the Prairie style architecture of the Oriole Park Branch Library and the floral motif common to the arts and crafts movement. The latter style is characterized by intricate patterns, organic lines, repetition, lyrical movement and the strong contrast of positive and negative space. The upper level library windows not only provide natural light for visitors below but they also open up northern, southern, eastern, and western views of the sky, metaphorically transporting readers to a wider world.

Next, the following poems by Emily Dickenson added a deeper level of inspiration to the project.


He ate and drank the precious words

His spirit grew robust;

He knew no more that he was poor

Nor that his frame was dust.

He danced along the dingy ways

And this bequest of wings

Was but a book. What liberty

A loosened spirit brings!


There is no frigate like a book

    To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

    Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take

    Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot

    That bears a human soul!


Reading gives us opportunities to visit far away lands both literally and imaginatively. Each book is like a “frigate” or boat and each page is like a “courser” or horse of “prancing poetry.” Reading can uplift the spirit with “wings” resulting in the bird imagery that symbolizes this transformation.  At the public library, reading is also available for everyone at no “oppress of toll.” 

The floral paintings are reflective of the cultural demographics of the Oriole Park community. On the North wall are flower paintings inspired by Swedish folk art, Polish Wycinanki designs (a Polish Art tradition using cut outs), and Russian flower motifs. The East wall depicts patterns drawn from Islamic and Egyptian Art, Indian rugs, Japanese botanical paintings, and Chinese porcelains. The art for the South wall invokes Mexican sundresses, Hawaiian quilts, and African daisy tapestries. Finally, the West wall includes a compilation of Native American beaded jewelry, American leather art, and British wallpapers loosely based on William Morris designs. The background colors in each of these walls are gradated suggesting the changing atmosphere of the sky.

My research for this project took me to the Oriole Park neighborhood several times. I was drawn to the historical elements of the neighborhood, especially the bungalow houses. I loved sitting outside on a park bench where I could watch planes descend to O’Hare Airport. My design incorporates this neighborhood and all of its elements into the magical gardens of cultural patterns. While executing my plan, I noticed how the flower contours in each culture are often the same, providing further compositional and symbolic unity. My hope is that this mural will suggest that the seeds for life-long reading are planted at home before they can grow and bloom at the public library. With this nourishing start, reading then opens all the doors to a larger welcoming world!

East Wall
South Wall
West Wall

Chicago Public Art Commission
12 large scale paintings
Oriole Public Library
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North Wall
Elaine Pawlowicz