Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Pictures of Children's Stories"

A large but little-noticed mural that a noted ceramic artist, F. Carlton Ball, created in an alcove of a public library branch in Whittier is having its moment in the spotlight after what may or may not have been a near-brush with the wrecking ball.

"Pictures of Children's Stories" is 12 feet high and 8 feet wide and has stood in a short passageway between the circulation desk and the adult wing of the Whittwood Branch Library since the building opened in 1968.

It consists of more than 100 square and rectangular tiles of irregular size, in glazed-over shades of blue, green, copper and silver. There are 79 scenes from beloved books — Long John Silver from "Treasure Island" appears with his sword and treasure chest; Aladdin's genie towers above his master; the Cheshire cat grins down upon Alice; Goliath staggers from David's fatal slingshot. Near the ceiling, between tiles showing the winged horse Pegasus and two knights jousting, Rip Van Winkle awakens and rubs his eyes.

Ball, who died in Tacoma, Wash., in 1992 at age 81, according to an Associated Press obituary, made his mark mainly with pottery during a long career as an artist, art professor and author of books on ceramics-making. He trained at USC in the early 1930s and returned there as an art professor from 1956 to 1967; he taught at several other institutions, including Oakland's Mills College, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Puget Sound.

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