History of “The Blade”
The Sculpture on the Grounds of the Nancy Guinn Library
The Blade, the monumental sculpture located on the grounds of the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library, owes its existence to the Conyers Civic League, the organization that founded the original library in 1919.
In 1969, the library’s new building on Pine Street was nearing completion. The Civic League members were rightfully proud of this major accomplishment and agreed that a memorial gift to the new library would be in order. Ideas were proposed but not agreed upon, and time dragged on. Impatient with the lack of progress, Mrs. Maxine Cornwell made a motion that “An important piece of sculpture (should) be commissioned and purchased for the library.” This was rather bold idea for the time, but it was seconded and passed unanimously.
In 1971, A sculpture committee was formed by members Libby Rogers, Nancy Elliot, Ora Beasley and Maxine Cornwell. Mrs. Cornwell delegated her son, Gibson, to fill her role and the four met with the Director of the High Museum of Art for recommendations for a sculptor. Mr. Cornwell later recalled,” I think he was rather impressed by our ambitious quest and he recommended a young up- and- coming sculptor named James Clover as the best choice.”
A meeting with Mr. Clover resulted in his agreement to accept the commission for a fee of $3,000 which included design, fabrication and installation of the sculpture. The committee agreed on blind faith, as Mr. Clover’s terms did not include a prior review of the design. “What you get is what you get,” he basically told them.
The Blade, an abstract sculpture of painted steel and fiberglass, 30 inches square at the base and curving upward to a single point at a height of 25 feet, was dedicated on Sunday Feb. 27, 1972. It was placed to the left of the front entrance of the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library, and for 17 years served as a beacon to library patrons.
In 1990 the Library moved to the present building on Green St. and The Blade was installed in the back of the library where its large presence would be complemented by the park-like setting of the property. Eighteen years later, during the expansion and renovation construction, Civic League member Jeanne Talley noticed that The Blade was in need of restoration as well. Mrs. Talley and Mr. Cornwell initiated a project with the support of the Civic League to restore the original color and build a retaining wall to arrest the erosion that was covering the base of The Blade.
No one could remember the original color and there were no early photographs in color to refer to. Mrs. Talley tracked down the sculptor, James Clover, in Ecuador where he now lives and Mr. Cornwell introduced himself via email for consultation about the color. After reviewing paint samples, Mr. Clover approved a dark, rich, rusty red that was closest to the original color.
The Blade was then sanded, primed and professionally painted to the new specifications. The erosion problem was addressed by building a retaining wall. Thanks to the generous financial support of the Conyers Civic League, these two projects were completed in time for the re-dedication of the library in May 2010.
The Nancy Guinn Library is in good company as a patron of the sculptural arts. Examples of James Clover’s work can be found at the High Museum of Art, Emory University and at other public facilities, such as libraries, universities and art museums, as well as in many private and corporate collections. The Blade is included in the database of the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. See http://www.SIRIS.si.edu/
At the base of The Blade, the original plaque that formally dedicated the sculpture in 1971 has been reinstalled on a granite base. It states “in honor of all members of The Conyers Civic League, past present and future.”
For the original speech on which this abbreviated history was based, please ask at the Information Desk in the Adult Services department. Thank you to Mr. Gibson Cornwell for relating the history of The Blade.