Courtesy: Los Angeles County Arts Commission Civic Art Collection
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Norwalk, California

Ben Mayer (

Norwalk Library, 12350 Imperial Hwy., Norwalk, California, 90650
Date:  1969
Placement:  libraries (buildings)
Artwork Type:  mosaics (visual works)
Material:  Venetian glass
Description:  This artwork by Ben Mayer at the Norwalk Library consists of a circular mosaic in the interior children’s section and two large exterior mosaic murals flanking either side of the main entrance. The children’s section mosaic encircles a large light fixture. It is composed of 21 colorful images such as a bluebird, a Viking ship, a castle, and an airplane. The entire work resembles a childrenuo;s picture book and creates a playful atmosphere.

The exterior mosaics depict California’s history and use maps to exemplify changes that have occurred over several hundred years. The mural south of the entrance features a map of California as an island. When Europeans first explored the Western edge of North America they mistakenly believed that the entire region, from Baja California to Washington State was separate from the mainland. Maps from the 16th, 17th and even 18th centuries often show the “Island of California” that Ben Mayer portrays here. Superimposed above this map are symbols of California’s early European exploration and settlement, including a large sailing ship, an adobe house, and an old Mission.

The mosaic to the entrance’s north depicts a modern map of the State of California. Placed over it are images of several industries which helped develop the State. A Mission with an orange tree represents agriculture, a train and a shipping freighter stand in for transportation and trade, and a jet and a rocket represent the aerospace industry. Both outdoor murals measure 10’ h x 19.75’l.

About the Artist: Ben Mayer (1925-1999) was born in Germany and later immigrated to England where he attended the All Saints School of Art in Manchester and the Royal College of Art in London. In 1949, he moved to Los Angeles where he remained for the rest of his life. He soon started his own business, Ben Mayer Design, Inc., which provided original artworks for theaters, casinos, and other public buildings.

In his later years, Mayer was drawn into the world of astronomy. Eventually, he turned his design business over to his son and devoted himself to exploring the stars. In 1975, Mayer became the first person to photograph a nova (star explosion) from beginning to end. Over the next two decades he published several books on astronomy, including The Cambridge Astronomy Guide with co-author William Liller. Mayer also patented a number of astrophotography devices, several of which became widely used around the world. In 1982 he was awarded “amateur of the year” by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He later donated his photography equipment to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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