The O’Connell Code, part 1

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Happy amusement and pure soul magazine! (How to take care of your pink blob)

“Uhhhh,” said the lady at the desk, looking back at her coworker for help.

“Uhhhhh,” said her coworker.

This is how most of my queries are answered at the information desk of the Knight Library. These poor students are like village watch people, positioned in towers at the edge of the great, mysterious forest of information.

“Don’t go in,” they whisper, clutching their torches. “There be monsters in there.”

I was on the hunt for two giant wood carvings that sketchbook pro and Copic marker man Ken O’Connell told me about in an email:

“I like how you find the little sculptures that most people overlook like the ‘Heat’ relief stone mural.
Another you will love is in the Knight Library on the second floor in the ‘Oregon Collection.’ Two amazing wood carved panels on walls at each end, huge and all about the depression and CCC camps in the NW. Please go and see these. They were done in 1930’s I think by the grandfather of one of my students.”

“Uhhhh,” continued the desk lady, holding a library map at arm’s length. “I think the Oregon Collection is near the Asian section. Second floor.”

I walked up the stairs and vanished into the shelves.

“He’ll ne’er return,” whispered the desk lady, pulling her cloak tighter and shuddering.

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Sleeping books a la Xiaoze Xie

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Happy amusement and pure soul magazine!, “Back to the Kindergarten” (death march)

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Mian Zi and Donghai Wang, Buffalo Boys (constantly overlooked artwork)

An odyssey through the Asian section lead me past some of those yellowed, forgotten artworks that only ever hang in libraries or government buildings, and peculiar Japanese tween girl magazines (in which I discovered that photo shoot with the pink blob). Neither books on Oregon nor giant wood panels were to be found.

I took a spiral staircase and ended up on the first floor again, so I decided to go straight to library administration.

“They’re these giant wood panels that I… want to look at,” I said, realizing that this was probably the first time anyone had asked about the carvings.

Sheila, the executive assistant to the dean of libraries, grabbed a ring of keys and lead me to the Browsing Room. For a moment, we stood in the semi-darkness of the sleeping room, and I imagined we were in the library of the Clue mansion.

“Are these the panels?” Sheila asked, flipping on the lights to reveal orange-brown reliefs depicting indigenous people and deer among forest trees.

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Art Clough

We stood and stared at the panels for a bit. Their composition is striking. The stark lines of the tree trunks contrast sharply with the swooping, soft forms of the animal and human bodies.

“I’ve never looked at these carvings before,” said Sheila. “I mean, you know, really looked.”

“They’re beautiful, but I don’t think they’re the right ones,” I said. However, the panels were by the same artist who made the carvings I was looking for, at least according to an information sheet Sheila had dug from her files. If only I could channel Robert Langdon, perhaps these carvings would point me to the others. I leaned in and tried to find a hidden pattern or code.

“They must be upstairs, then,” said Sheila, making up for my lack of symbological expertise. She sent me up a staircase to the rare books section.

“He’ll ne’er return,” I thought I heard Sheila whisper as I walked away.

This time it might have been true- the rare books librarians are rumored to have medusa-esque powers- had the door not been locked. The room had closed half an hour before.

I stood rattling the handle and peering through the glass panes, trying to catch a glimpse into the main room. To no avail.

What will happen next? Will Jordan find the mysterious wood panels? Have you actually read this post all the way through? Props to you!

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