Wednesday, September 12, 2012


One of my unrealized drawings

Inspired by my visit to the Library Company this spring, I have spent the summer as a Visual Culture Program Intern happily creating new works based on the Schoenhut circus toy catalog from 1917 and the other toy-related materials in the library’s collection representative of the period 1850-1950.

A preliminary sketch becoming a sculpture

For all the things that have gone smoothly, there have been a few others that have not. But trial and error, at least in my experience, are a normal occurrence in the art world. From accumulations of unrealized drawings and ideas, to making the same piece over and over because of an issue with a measurement, to gluing something on the wrong way; it has all happened.

In organizing my schedule, I gave myself about two weeks to work on each of ten toys that I planned to create during my internship. Some sculptures, like the Roly Polys and Rolley Sheep, went smoothly and--as I now know--gave me a false sense of security. When I began work on the more intricate toys, like my cam tiger tamer and voting bear, the pieces took much longer than I expected. Nonetheless, as I reached the final few days of my internship, I wrapped everything up nicely. The final details worked out well, except when I got distracted or tired or rushed and did something not very smart. This happened with my Walking Bear sculpture, the piece representing my final decade of research - the 1940s.

The infamous gear set

I purchased a gear set for the internal mechanics, thinking that I would just build around it. But that proved problematic until I finally figured out a good way to construct an outer design with which I was happy and that would fit around the inner workings. When I finally solved this problem, I glued on the outer layer to form the figure of the bear. A few days later I decided to test the bear.  Great job Jesse! He walks in the wrong direction. I had assembled the gears inside the body backwards. I couldn’t stop laughing. You just have to roll with the punches sometimes as an artist and I have decided he is “backwards” walking bear.

I am incredibly lucky to have had this internship and have learned so much about my craft and myself while working at the Library Company. This summer has been a really wonderful experience and I just want to end this post by saying thank you to everyone at the library who I came into contact with. I have always felt accepted here and I had a wonderful time interning under the Visual Culture Program.

Jesse Lentz
Moore College of Art ‘13
VCP Artist-in-Residence Intern

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Playful Record: Victorian Photo Collage

Recently, I was given the opportunity to design an event invitation for the Philadelphia on Stone book launch party on October 23 at The Library Company. As the party is an ode to the great lithography of the Victorian era, I played with styles and themes from the time period, namely Victorian photo-collage. 

Victorian photo-collage is a whimsical combination of photography, printmaking, and painting popular in the family scrapbooks of aristocratic Victorian women in the mid to late 19th century. One would find a cut-out of a portrait, a head or a whole body, placed in a painted scene or combined with lithographs. The scene could be somewhat realistic such as a drawing of a parlor or garden, but often the scenes achieved a surrealistic quality and portraits were placed in fantastical settings where heads did not match bodies, gravity was not a law of physics, and inanimate objects took on a life of their own. 

              (click to enlarge)

When putting together the invitation, I decided to take a more straightforward approach. I created a digital collage using the photographic heads of prolific lithographers and pen and ink drawings of their bodies, the library setting, and the lithograph press. I can see why the practice was so popular because once I combined the first photograph with my drawing I could not help but smile and laugh. In an era where a photograph could not capture a smile due to the long exposures needed, the whimsy of Victorian photo-collage brought a cheerful element of play that was lacking into family albums.

Concetta Barbera
Digitization Technician
You can see more of my work here: