The Library Artistically Decorated Wall
Chaos and Insight - a mural by John Byle (1928 2015)
donated by Helen and Stanley Grosman
I believe that man needs a sense of order. He searches for meaning and order in the chaos of his surroundings. The scientist, the poet, the philosopher, the theologian and the artist – all seek, in their own ways meaning and order. The search for order in chaos is the subject of my work. The fairly recent development of the science of chaos is half-jokingly known as the Butterfly Affect – the notion that a butterfly flapping its wings today in Peking might affect the weather next month in New York. I use this image of chaos because my first association of the two walls, with their unusual shape, was a butterfly. The study of chaos in the 1960s revealed that tiny differences in input could quickly become overwhelming differences in output – a phenomenon given the name – "sensitive dependence on initial conditions." That which was not understood yesterday is explained today – what seems to us to be chaos today may not perplex and trouble us tomorrow.
A central problem in esthetics of creation is finding the right balance between simplicity and complexity – not to be simple to the point of emptiness and not to be complex to the degree of incomprehensibility. I try to work on several different levels – to create a complex texture of meanings. This makes it difficult sometimes to untangle meanings. This is important for public art – to have depth of meaning that allows for new insights and appreciation.
In incorporating art in architecture there are the special demands and limitations of site that affect the work. In this case, problems of acoustics led to the utilization of the black holes as an integral part of the design. Also the spatial limitations allow the whole work to be seen only from one point and perception of the work as a series of partial views that change with the movement of the viewer.
On one level, the mural is an abstract composition of shapes and colors that creates an upward movement and gives a sense of growth, development and progress. The colors are bright and vibrant. My aim was to give a feeling of optimism and excitement – a dynamic feeling of life. Stairs and concentric circles give a feeling of growth and expansion. The two rainbows (one on each wall) symbolize hope and good fortune. These are things that the viewer perceives from a distance, this is one level of perception. However, as one comes closer to the mural, one discovers other symbols.
The composition is built around three axes: a central vertical axis, a diagonal axis; and a horizontal axis. The central vertical axis begins in the lower right hand corner of the left wall – like a cornerstone of the mural where we find the figures of Adam and Eve (based on a print by Albercht Durer). They symbolize the beginning of human life and society and the apple, a red circle – a symbol of knowledge. The red circle is a motif that reappears throughout the composition and is found as the navel of Leonardo's "Man the Measure," where the central, diagonal and horizontal axes meet. In the square above Adam and Eve we find a diagram from a scientific research into chaos (a discovery by Edward Lorenz, called the First Strange Attractor), a shape that resembles an apple or perhaps a butterfly. Above, on the central axis we find a number of red circles, gradually becoming larger that symbolize the growth of knowledge and perhaps resembles a computer disc. The diagonal axis stars from a red circle on the left wall, rises through the "crazy graph" up to the red navel and across to the right wall and then up the steps and ends in a white square with Picasso's "Dove of Peace." The horizontal axis starts at a large red circle (an apple or perhaps a flower) on the left wall and crosses both walls to the solar system on the edge of the right wall.(John Byle, 1928 -2015)