Library’s New Entryway Is One Door You Can’t Knock


Stare hard enough at the doorway of the E.P. Foster Library in Ventura and you’ll find the dancing men.

You don’t know the dancing men?

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Dec. 10, 1999 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday December 10, 1999 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
Sally Weber--A photo Wednesday incorrectly identified the artist who designed the entryway for the renovated E.P Foster Library in Ventura. She is Sally Weber.

That’s OK. Neither did Mr. Hilton Cubbit, of Riding Thorpe Manor, Norfolk, before he quakingly brought Sherlock Holmes a fragment of paper marked with the oddly threatening little figures.

You can find the story in the mystery section on the library’s second floor, and the little men dancing amid a shower of colors on the library’s door.


This is some door.

This is not a door you can buy at Home Depot.

It’s a work of art that spans the library’s 220-square-foot glassed entryway, combining brilliant colors and intriguing symbols. Just down from the dancing men, you’ll find the kissin’ chickens. And King Solomon’s knot, and some Chumash rock paintings, and icon after exotic icon, all cleverly hidden before your eyes within the sliced-up rainbow that now comprises the library entrance.

The work is a $72,000 piece of public art called “Matrix,” and it was designed to send the public the kind of message it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to decipher: Come see me! I am not the dark, dank, dowdy, old Foster Library anymore! I’m newly renovated! Two million bucks! Enter! Please!

Amy Maguire, a Ventura High School junior, got it instantaneously. As the late-afternoon sun illuminated the doorway’s thousand-and-one colors one day last week, she waxed enthusiastic.


“These colors are just so cool, so inviting,” she said. “My mom saw it when she was driving by and she said, ‘Whoa! Is that for real? I’ve got to check it out!’ ”

That’s just what Sally Weber, the Ventura artist behind “Matrix,” had in mind.

“I’m honored that you like it,” she told Amy.

She might have been blushing slightly, but, in the color-splashed entryway, it was impossible to tell.

From her studio in an industrial neighborhood, Weber routinely raids the spectrum for her work. Using prisms and lasers, mirrors and holographs, she has created imaginative pieces displayed from Indonesia to MIT. Her sculptures have been commissioned for police headquarters in Phoenix and a Green Line station in Long Beach; in Ventura County, her only other work is “Flight of Fish,” a school of prismatic fish that catch the sun in a pond outside an Oxnard office building.


But she never has done anything quite like “Matrix.”

“A word for it might not even exist,” she said.

She calls it a “digital glass installation,” but the term doesn’t exactly roll off her tongue.

“Matrix” is an elaborate arrangement of colored film laminated between the glass sheets of the library’s entryway, composed of two doors and the panels around them. As you get closer to it, you see patterns from Islamic holy texts, Navajo rugs, world myth and obsolete computer chips. Closer still, you can make out lines of text--”An angel peeled an orange, and waited for me to wake up”--from the Bible, Eleanor Roosevelt, the American Library Assn., famed authors, a local poet or two.


“There’s a kind of magic to it,” Weber said, “a magic that was needed in our library and wasn’t there.”

For Weber, there was no one Eureka! moment when the idea suddenly became crystal-clear. But she noodles around a lot--with light, and the way it plays off various materials, with slivers of silicon chips, and the way they look through a microscope. Gradually, “Matrix”--call it a digital glass installation, or call it an entryway--took form.

It looks precisely designed, but Weber, a self-confessed perfectionist, is quick to point out that it isn’t.

“Persian weavers build one imperfection into every rug, because only Allah can be perfect,” Weber said. “That’s what I do too. I call them God-spots.”


“Where are they?” I asked.

“May you never find them,” she said.

Steve Chawkins can be reached at 653-7561 or by e-mail at