Lesley Lundgren – squinting through the sunlight flooding in through the west-facing windows of the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery – scrunches up her nose and tilts her head. Its almost comical, this gesture of disappointment. Disney could animate it.
I need to re-light that photo, she says, pointing at a black-and-white photograph hanging next to the windows. Do you see how there is a slight shadow over it?
Well, now that you mention it.
Like many librarians, Lundgren has an eye for detail. And as the coordinator for the gallery inside the Allen County Public Library, her job demands it. Every night, she stands alone in the gallery, looking for the small imperfections no one else would think twice about. A stray wire poking out from behind a photograph; a fingerprint on a piece of glass; a glare; a shadow.
Lighting is important, she says, frowning at the obscured photo. I wish I was this detail-oriented with everything.
A librarian and an artist
Lundgren is what would have been called dainty a century ago. Shes thin and bespectacled, her hair cut into a simple wavy bob. Not too long ago, her hair trailed all the way down her back like a straight light brown carpet. And then she donated it to Locks of Love.
And in another six years, Ill do it all over again, she says.
Lundgren smiles when she talks – a big, wide grin that stretches the width of her face and hints at her adventurous side. Its incongruous, actually. A soft-spoken librarian – a self-described introvert – who every once in a while will say something like: Maybe someday Ill get a pilots license.
She loves reading, she says. And art, naturally. Lundgrens Lakeside-area home is often a little cluttered with new projects – her way of decompressing at the end of the day, she says.
My craft room is the only part of the house that is organized, she says. But every once in a while, Ill look around and think, OK. Time to clean the nursery, Mary Poppins.
Lundgren is an artist, although drawing was never her strong suit. As an undergraduate at Mankato State, she gravitated toward fine art and theater classes, picking up art-related electives while pursuing her English degree. And then, one day, she realized something.
I noticed there were people who could draw and people who could practice and practice and not get better. And thats where I was, she says. I thought I was hindered because I couldnt produce the way that I wanted, but I later took a textiles class and it changed my idea about art, drew me away from the idea of representational art.
Right now, Lundgrens passion is encaustic painting, a style of art using pigments mixed with hot beeswax. Her latest piece is a painting of the Sacré Coeur in Paris. The tile-size square is translucent and ethereal, but nevertheless feeds her adventurous side. Thrills come in all forms, she says.
Theres a little bit of danger involved, she says. You have to be careful when youre working with pigments; theres a chance you could create something toxic and not be aware of it.
During December, more than 40,000 people came through the doors of the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery. Tens of thousands of people who not only saw the artwork, but saw how the artwork was presented, how the exhibit was coordinated, how the gallery was maintained. For visitors, the gallery is a no pressure place, Lundgren says. Most of the pressure falls on Lundgrens side of things.
This is a venue where people can see art and no one is around to follow them, she says. We like that people dont feel intimidated when theyre here. Because they shouldnt feel intimidated. They shouldnt feel that no matter what gallery they walk into.
Nevertheless, pressure is inevitable in some ways. For instance, the gallerys first exhibit, which coincided with the librarys re-opening in 2007, could have been a disaster. Could have. But wasnt.
At the time, the gallery had become a staging area of sorts for the library, a place to store the movable walls and half-built desks before they were moved to their proper location. The terrazzo floor was covered in dust. And amid all of this, the art – all by local artists – began flooding in.
I was still putting labels on some of the work when the artists started walking in for the opening, Lundgren says. It was exciting, but really nerve-wracking.
Lundgren spends a week installing a show at the gallery, moving the work around, trying to find the right repetition for the wall. Creating a heartbeat, she calls it.
Im sensitive toward the artist because I understand the pressure, she says. Their work, their ability and their point of view is precious and, for some, fragile. We want their experience in the gallery to be a rewarding one.
So she strolls through every evening. Tucking back wires, looking for shadows.
In January, Lundgren turned 38. A winter birthday. No chance of calling friends, firing up the grill and breaking out the lawn darts. Instead, Lundgren took three days off.
I read, worked on projects, slept in, she says. Stayed warm and ate chocolate.
She also spent time with family, most of whom have relocated to Fort Wayne from Wisconsin. She ate Mexican food with her parents, took her niece to see The Princess and the Frog, and, somehow, finished the calendar of gallery exhibits for 2011.
For Lundgren, just about anything provides inspiration for the gallery – traveling, art fairs, visiting both local galleries and museums in Chicago or Indianapolis. Shopping, too, she says. Recently, she came across a jewelry display where the pieces were laid out on a bed of lentils. It started her thinking about the color and texture of natural materials and how they can be used to complement color in art.
I never tire of looking at art and creative expression, she says. Im always going to be fascinated by the way people – even me – experience art and react to it. The expression of art is never far from my thoughts. Even when Im shopping.