Library pottery as focal point

on the rancho purissima, in the rinconada, in the library, in Palo Alto, or near it, on the counter, in the pot, a message, a story, from 1976

on the rancho purissima de juana briones, in the rinconada, in the library, in Palo Alto, or near it, on the counter, in the pot, a message, a story, from 1976


Palo Alto’s renovated Rinconada Library, formerly known as Main Library, has on display a white Raku-style pottery pod or jar maybe not an olla by a local artist named Stephen A. Stephens (1943-1983). The staff, especially “Karen” are quite fond of the piece and were pleased that it survived the long renovation process. The piece had a plaque, carried inside, that says that it was purchased by the City of Palo Alto in 1976, during a time when the current Palo Alto Arts Commission and its permanent collection were in formation. (Greg Brown’s earliest murals date from the same period).

I gotta believe this is one of only two ceramics in the collection. There are plenty of prints and painting, that circulate to enhance the offices of various city officials, including the Mayor, and some sculpture, but nothing this plastic or brittle. There is or was a framed Picasso ceramic, in Donna Grider’s Clerk Office, for years, but that was cracked and I’m not sure where it went to.

I tried twice to donate works to the City Collection, in honor of mayors Yiaway Yeh and Sid Espinosa, but that is in limbo. I tried to get Estate of Jerry Garcia to donate, to the same library building, a vintage print of Jerry Garcia and band circa 1964 and a Jerry Garcia lithograph, or a blues artist, in 2005 or so. I also recently, in honor of Michael and Colin McFaul offered a small piece to Stanford.

I know that the Cubberley artists have to donate works to the program, as partial payment for their subsidized studio space.

I know more about our outdoor and permanent murals and sculptures, and Samuel Yates temporary or process piece, Color of Palo Alto, 2007-2015, just yesterday in the news again, in a meta-sense. (I am suggesting that the City Attorney ride his motorcycle retracing Samuel Yates while listening to “Born to Be Wild”).

“Karen” of staff invited Patia Stephens the daughter of Stephen A. Stephens, and I happened to eavesdrop on them chatting as I flipped thru an old Garth Clark book.

I hope there is more to this story. Meanwhile, say hi to the Stephen A. Stephens piece as you check out your books and the new rooms. Also, someone said the library used to circulate to the public a set of prints. I meanwhile borrowed a recent copy of Art in America to read up on Ai WeiWei at Alcatraz.

edit to add: when I say that the Stephens pot is “plastic or brittle” I may be wrong. Ehren Tool, recent in residence at nearby Palo Alto Art Center said that the 850 or so mugs he made will last centuries.

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About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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