Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lilith Jones, muralist, in "the highest room of the tallest tower" and beyond

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Be prepared to be enchanted when you walk into "the highest room of the tallest tower" of the Cold Spring Harbor Library, actually the library has only one two-story tower, but what a tower it is!

You enter the brightly lit room; it is circular, arranged like a child size amphitheater with the floor and three steps / seats softened with a carpet; its ceiling is white, the walls are covered by a colorful, evolving scene, gently broken by the rhythm of windows overlooking the harbor area. The simple geometry is so charming, the size so comfortable that you immediately feel captivated.

See the muralist Lilith Jones add new elements to the July landscape scene. The voice recording is not the best, but if you can hear well enough, you will find Lilith's comments invaluable.

The room, in an impressive, new library building, designed by Beatty, Harvey & Associates, was designated as a story time room. The library director, Helen M. Crosson, wanted a mural in there. She commissioned the muralist, Lilith Jones of Huntington, who, with a long list of nature depicting murals in her portfolio, was a perfect choice.

The library, built on the state land, included a nature center. It was befitting that the mural should include the types of ecosystems surrounding the library. Tons of research went into identifying the topography, soil, moisture level, native plants and animals to be rendered in the mural. When it is completed it will present images of 250 species of local plants and animals.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
The mural is arranged to depict the scenes beyond the walls at the changing seasons: woodland with May bloomers, then an imaginary backyard scene with a humid June forest on the left changing into a drier, sandy hill with early July plants; freshwater pond with a mid summer picnic scene follows and extends into another, late August, panel with collected samples. The mural dips in the last panel to include underwater plants and animals, the friendly-looking seal, known to visit the area in October, steals the scene.

When children enter the room, they start exploring the room by running along the round wall. This is exactly the effect the creators have envisioned, the mural is made to be touched. Lilith used durable and safe paints and will coat the walls with a protective layer after the mural is completed to ensure it stays that way for a long time.

Maybe it would not be so bad being a princess locked up in this enchanted tower (perhaps with an access to the stacks and computers). If one were to kiss a frog to turn it into a prince, Lilith would probably know the right specie :).

Lilith's knowledge, talent and charisma are so great, that it's a miracle she is able to paint at all. Children come every few minutes, a lot of them know her from her art classes (she very seriously and with full conviction calls them artists). Adults drop in and chat with her. There is a constant string of admirers, myself included. I have been there five times within the last week or so.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Lilith created murals in various other public and civic places - at the Harborfields Library in Greenlawn, at the Friends Academy in Locust Valley, at the Nature Conservancy in Cold Spring Harbor, or in the kids section of the Book Review in Huntington. She has also painted private rooms in houses of the nature loving folks - it could be an atrium, sun porch, kid's room. Some clients when moving asked Lilith to paint again at the new location. In a few instances she even painted an equivalent of a mural on canvas so that it can be easily relocated. She will recommends images for a particular location to better accommodate the architecture and the size of a room, type of wall, or light in the room changing at different times of day.

Her portfolio can be seen in her gallery.

Lilith has also illustrated two and co-authored one nature book for children: "Wacky Plant Cycles" by Valerie Wyatt and Lilith Jones and "You Don't Look Like Your Mother" by Aileen Lucia Fisher.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Lilith was raised in Locust Valley. Since her childhood she was interested in drawing and in nature. She applied to an art school, transferred to Stony Brook to study biology. The anatomy drawing class brought her back to art. She had studied painting with Stephen Rettegi, Hungarian-American oil painter, for about a year and a half. She immersed herself in the world of great art by reviewing one art book after another in search for interesting ways of the artistic expression. Now she herself teaches painting in the Huntington School of Fine Arts in the high school portfolio program.

Lilith has a deep appreciation for nature, she spent a lot of time around it throughout her life. She not only lived with it but also followed her interest with a diligent study and continuous consultations with naturalists. She was known to erase an object from a mural when it was found out of its environment, for instance, a May flower which was depicted blooming in late August.

She found nature based murals to be a perfect medium for her where she can combine both her passions - art and nature. The collaborative effort involved in creating a mural appeals to her, as well.

Photo by
Ewa Rumprecht
She paints her murals in two different styles, with form depicted by patches of color, like the mural in Cold Spring Harbor Library, or with a form outlined in purple, black or brown, the latter producing lighter images. The selection of technique will depend on the theme, the feeling of the space, and, obviously, the budget.

Themes might be, as she calls them, whimsical and present imaginary figures, usually animals doing imaginary things, like elephants, mice and monkeys reading books in the Harborfields Library murals. Themes might be based on nature and then will be presented true to originals, like the mural at the Cold Spring Harbor Library.

All murals share the same challenges - a proportion of space or perspective and focus at different vantage points. Lilith solves the problems with a pragmatic approach which leaves the viewer not overpowered by the size or location of the murals but charmed by their welcoming and harmonious presence.

1 comment:

  1. I had the pleasure of visiting the library not too long ago, and met the artist in action. As a Long Island muralist myself, it was wonderful to see Lilith's creative process and chat with her about how she came up with this wonderful design. It's astounding how much behind the scenes research goes into a project such as this. Great job Lilith.

    Debbie Viola