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A Look at the Unique and Quirky Storytellying of Wendy MacNaughton

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Meanwhile, Wendy MacNaughton

Wendy MacNaughton: Things Happen, 2009Wendy MacNaughton is an artist any bookworm and library lover can get behind. Hers pieces portray their subjects—people, places, and things. but it is her recent project celebrating the current life of the San Francisco Public Library and its inhabitants that bring it all home.

Meanwhile is the brilliant illustrated documentary series in question. Almost like a storybook as the reader scrolls down, the library tells its story with MacNaughton’s help. Sometimes the frame is just an image, sometimes words are added, and sometimes it’s a graph—informative and conspiratorial all at once. No matter what, each portion of the project, which is gorgeous as a whole, has its own personality that is given true life by a sort of “on the fly” aesthetic and energy in the paintings. Her work, always with a sharp eye for color, combines the haze of splashed-out watercolors with thin black lines to give definite shapes to her images to create something truly beautiful. It’s a bit like looking out of a moving on a sunny day just after the sky has cleared and the rain left on the window is still blurring everything.

As much as the series expresses the beauty one can find in the library, it is not just about the books or the aesthetic of a well-stocked shelf. More striking than anything is MacNaughton’s emphasis on the people who love the library and the library loves right back; people who come every day to research, to nap, to get in off the streets for a little while. The library changes to suit the needs of the community it serves, and the community is just as eager to return that love in kind. The best part about the environment of kindness, comfort, and goodwill that the library and its voice-project bring to the table can be found in the last frame of the series. If you don’t have time reach your own library branch today, this is not a bad substitute.

To read Meanwhile, visit as well as her intriguing blog at

–Elizabeth O’Connell-Thompson is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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