During the summer of 2016, Carthage College student Paul Salsieder ’18 created a mural in the Hedberg Library for a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) project. The result is the wonderful “Domains of Knowledge” mural located on the second floor of the library. Please come to the Hedberg Library to see the magnificent mural in person.
From The Bridge, September 08, 2016:
“His [Paul’s] goal was to create a 21st Century mural that incorporated the timeless themes of knowledge and wisdom without looking dated. See the mural and hear Paul talk about his work in the video below, created by student videographer Torey Kervick ’17.”
“The mural showcases seven different fields of philosophy: logic, epistemology, politics, ethics, aesthetics, science, and metaphysics.
Each section of the mural is stylistically different than the other six and can stand on its own artistically while also contributing to the artistic narrative of the mural as a whole.
The opportunity for the mural to be placed in the library was a result of the construction that occurred over the summer and an effort for student art to be displayed in other buildings on campus besides the H. F. Johnson Center for the Fine Arts.
Paul’s faculty mentor for the project was Prof. Diane Levesque. Director of Information Services Carol Sabbar and Outreach Services Librarian Liz Lang served as Paul’s ‘clients’ from the library to discuss how the mural could be integrated into the library functionally, intellectually, and artistically.
‘One of the major changes we’re making in the library is the incorporation of student artwork throughout the library,’ Sabbar said. ‘Paul’s beautiful mural is one of the first steps in that process.’”
Description of the Mural Sections, by Paul Salsieder
Photos by Paul Salsieder, 2016
(From Left to Right)
The far section, Logic, depicts blueprints of groundbreaking architectural works such as the Greek Parthenon and the Byzantine Hagia Sophia. In the top half of the Logic section these blueprints fade into brightly colored and highly idealized buildings based on margin ornaments from illuminated manuscripts. The fade from blueprints to idealized finished work is very important as it illustrates the way people think about things in the abstract. It’s not quite real and the imagined result is invariably different from the finished product. The central figure in Logic is both a builder and architect. In one hand he holds a compass showing the ideas and conceptualization that go into architecture and engineering, and in the other hand he holds a lever represent the practical challenge of bringing plans and concepts to realization.
Three figures dominate the section devoted to politics, the female figure representing Liberty is loosely based on Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix. The figure holding a globe invokes the classical myth of Atlas, and represents the anguish and burden that comes with power. The third figure with his arm resting on a shield represents war. On his shield (based on the Shield of Achilles as described in Homer’s Iliad) there are images of warfare in the Modern Era; aircraft, artillery, armor and soldiers with firearms constitute the elaborate metal punch-work.
The Ethics section depicts an idyllic landscape full of stillness and serenity. Five stages of life are displayed in this scene: a baby sleeps in the arm’s of it’s mother, then children throw stones in a pond, a young couple walk hand in hand, a mother comforts her child, and lastly an old man sits in contemplation of the scene. Infancy, childhood, romance, parenthood, and old age are displayed as the different stages of life. Different ethics surround the different stages of life, and only the old man with his back turned to the viewer can reflect on the whole scene, as only a man who climbs a mountain can see the world clearly from above the clouds. He see his mistakes and what could have been, comforted, for better or worse, by the consolation of what is.
Epistemology is the study of belief, knowledge, the validity of information, and the nature of justification. Essentially the epistemological question is “Why do I know what I know?” Much of our knowledge comes from the words of others, in the form of books, journals, theses, et cetera. To reflect this, I’ve included a number of classic works of literature in the foreground of the painting, many of these books are books I have read and that I have found life changing or incredibly moving, but amongst all of this heavy reading I added some famous illustrations from children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupury. The other figures in these sections are representative of students and the various means of pursing knowledge whether it is by listening, looking, or doing.
Aesthetics is the field of philosophical study concerned with the appreciation of beauty, and to convey the feeling of beauty that stretches across the centuries I combined Michelangelo’s famous statue The Dying Slave with bright sensuous colors reminiscent of the modern artist Vassily Kandinsky. Among the bright colors there is the form of a violinist who passionately brings fourth a visual melody. Kandinsky’s intentions in much of his painting were to depict sound and music in a visual form, and I follow in his footsteps of composing music in the sounds of color.
The pursuit of empirical and verifiable knowledge is a spectacular endeavor. In this section there are two types of pursuit, the very grand and the very small. The figure in silhouette with the telescope represents the science of large discovers, the science of looking beyond and seeing into what is immeasurably large and into the black vastness of what is incomprehensible. The figure in the foreground observing a firefly represents the science of looking at what is small, the pursuit of what is so imperceptible that it escapes our notice. It is the sciences of looking inward to unlock the secrets of grand designs.
In the foreground is the first of four longitude clocks designed by the Englishman, John Harrison. It was designed as a solution to a navigation problem that had plagued sailors since ancient times, the problem of determining longitude. Sparing the specifics, I believe John Harrison’s invention represents everything that science stands for: The betterment of man through the pursuit of knowledge, and the practical application of that knowledge. When confronted with a seemingly insurmountable problem, Harrison persevered and would not stand to be defeated. In the end he changed the world, and allowed everyone to do what science aims to make possible, to find our place in the world.
Marked on the piece of paper below the clock are the coordinates of mural. I hope it will give pause for thought and help people contemplate where they are and what places and opportunities lay before them.
Aristotle called it “The first philosophy.” The field of Metaphysics is concerned with what is and what is not — What is real and what is not real. In a section that deals with reality the figure in the foreground represents dreams. She seems real and believable but her surroundings are not. There is something unsettling about this uncertainty and that sense of confusion is seen in the figure that stands between Science and Metaphysics. He sits staring into the abyss of the unknown on the shaky precipice of empirical knowledge. He is a figure who doubts his own beliefs and the very nature of his existence.
The rest of the section is full of abstractions like the gold squares that break through the swirling forms of purple and the Greek saying “Know Thyself.” Although this section seems bizarre it is essential to look at it and doubt. The only truth that means anything significant is the phrase “know thyself” it is the only thing you can know for certain.