The Houston Public Library is pleased to announce the installation of ART/LIFE, a painting by award-winning artist Bert L. Long Jr. in the Children’s Area of the new Houston Public Library Looscan Neighborhood Library located at 2510 Willowick Rd (between Westheimer and San Felipe). The massive 30’ x 7’ acrylic painting on canvas depicts a ship sailing towards a sunset and imbedded are copies of 17 masterpiece paintings. The Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) managed the project through its Civic Art + Design department.
According to Long, a 68 year-old African American, the theme of this work is the personal journey of the creative artist who is pictured steering a sailboat in the center of the stormy seascape. The sea holds terror including swimming sharks and the tentacled arms of a giant squid and represents the trials of making a living. The sea holds great beauty, including one of Hosukai’s views of Mt. Fuji and a golden sunset.
Also in this sea--as well as in the sky--are iconic images from art history re-imagined by Long as heroes or ideals. Included are a Rembrandt self-portrait; a sculptured bronze head of a Benin woman; the sarcophagus mask of King Tut; Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother by James McNeill Whistler; The Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer, and fifteen others. The artist, who shares the boat with images from creative moderns such as Frida Kahlo, Louise Nevelson, and Georgia O'Keefe, looks over his shoulder at the viewer as if to say, "We're all in this together."
A native Houstonian and resident of the Fifth Ward, Long was educated in Houston and in the Marine Corps at UCLA. His work has been reviewed in more than 120 periodicals and is included in 18 permanent collections in America and abroad. In October of this year, Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts honored him with the prestigious Artist of the Year award.
"We are very honored to have one of Mr. Long's works as part of the City of Houston's and the Houston Public Library's civic art collection," said Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, director of the Houston Public Library. "Mr. Long began his distinguished career using the Houston Public Library's extensive Fine Arts collection to learn about technique and to gain inspiration from the work of other artists. It is fitting that a significant work from this internationally-known artist hangs in one of our finest facilities, the Looscan Neighborhood Library."
Long works in almost every medium, including painting, sculpture, print, drawing, and multicolored ice installations. "As artists, we have the obligation to provide the world with work that communicates as truth," Long says. "I believe that art has the power to heal our souls of some afflictions. I try to create art that diagnoses the prevalent 'misconditions' within our society and extends some insight into how we can become more united in brotherhood and compassion."