View the “Collective Memory” that comes from storytelling at W. Dale Clark Main Library’s Michael Phipps Gallery

Summer often arrives with an abundance of energy, and the warmth of the season sets up ideal conditions to create lifelong memories. Omaha Public Library (OPL) introduces its second exhibition of the year in the Michael Phipps Gallery from May 6, 2022, through June 30, 2022. In continuation of the previous exhibit's theme, the “Power of Story,” in which artists created a literacy connection between their art and a story, the new exhibit shifts the focus to the “Collective Memory” of stories. The four featured artists evoke the strong bonds and memories derived from storytelling.

Holly Tharnish is inspired by folktales, storybooks, anecdotes passed down through generations, old photographs and historical imagery. Her pieces examine themes of identity, womanhood, memories, and the contrasts between the world we live in, the stories we tell, and the narratives we keep inside our minds.

Mary Ensz emphasizes the need to learn others’ experiences and see our own experiences and identities represented within our community. Her use of acrylic on wood highlights identities that have been historically “shelved” for later, and pairs them with sight words for fluency, de-stigmatization, humanization and joy.

Kathleen Van Lieu combines abstraction and realism to refine her elemental style. Using texture, layering, line and blending, the pieces go beyond expectations, obligations and responsibilities. Libraries felt magical to her since her childhood and provided her with a doorway to go anywhere, to see anything. They became her favorite place to study, find refuge, and meet like-minded friends.

Judith Snyder uses metaphors to connect all the parts of her life. Like a storyteller’s words, Snyder's sculptures tell stories with clay. Her sculptures depict her evolution as an artist, as she experiments with form, balance, rhythm, and firing types that best serve these natural forms. "Storytellers and art exist in every culture to explain, entertain, chronicle history, and teach moral/religious beliefs. Stories change with telling--whether fairytales, family memories, or everyday encounters, these narratives bring us together as a family and community to create a common bond," said Snyder.

Books, libraries, and the power of story weave in and out of every piece featured in this exhibition. This exhibition was crafted by the artists, and the collective memory their pieces convey. The exhibitions at Michael Phipps Gallery are dedicated to celebrating the connection between art, literacy, and the power of story. We encourage you to spend time in reflection and conversation around these works.

View photos from the exhibition opening here