I love libraries! They’re free, quiet, warm in winter and cool in summer, and fantastic places to find out more about stuff, especially the arts. I was pretty much the only person inside the University of Puget Sound’s Collins library today, it being winter break, and I was there to take in the gorgeous ink and watercolor book “Local Conditions” by letterpress artist Chandler O’Leary.
On moving here a few years ago, O’Leary became fascinated with our local volcano. She also really admired Japanese woodblock print artist Hokusai, whose “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” wowed Edo 200 years ago. The two ideas combined into “Local Conditions,” which details over a hundred “views” of Mt. Rainier – rural, city, big, small – along with their precise date and location on a series of cards, hand-printed in letterpress and hand-colored. Each card can be slotted into a kind of diorama at the top of a beautifully hand-made box, in endless combinations. The whole thing is printed in indigo ink (a tribute to Hokusai) and even the binding and fabric of the box is stunning in its Japanese elegance.
My favorite scene? Mt. Rainier seen from Seattle waters, completely dwarfed by the giant Seattle P-I globe. That’s perspective for you. Another fave is of the mountain, tiny in the distance, gazed upon by a seated woman who, naked, is just as mountainous and stately.
But if you’re at the Collins, don’t stop there. The permanent collection has some gems like a Chihuly Macchia and a Paul Horiuchi abstract, as well as some grim WWII posters (German boots dripping blood and a maniacal torpedo-riding Navy man.) In the entryway reading room you can catch up with all those arts periodicals you never get round to buying (The Strad, Print, Art Forum) and upstairs in the music section you can find a score and a CD and listen for hours.
The library is currently on winter hours: 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 10-13, 7:30-11 a.m. Jan. 14, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 15-17; then regular hours 7:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday. “Local Conditions” is up through January 21, followed by more letterpress art by Catherine Michaelis. 1500 North Warner St., Tacoma. Free. 253-879-3229, www.pugetsound.edu