Laura Mentor

Nelson County Public Library - Bardstown, KY

Glass Tapestry     9’ x 12’

Garden Doorway     Children’s room    6’8” x 6’8”

Chartered in 1788 and Kentucky's second oldest city, Bardstown was once the gateway to the settling of the west.

Its rich history has been shaped by Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, the composer Stephen Foster (who wrote the state song after a stay in Bardstown), the inventor of the first steam-powered paddleboat, several state governors, the bourbon industry, the Catholic church and many other pioneers and influences.

Initially, the prospect of creating artwork which could both adequately represent this region's heritage and speak to the role of the library in the life of the community felt overwhelming!

It was not until I had a feeling of the continuum of life, through both the natural world and the realm of human endeavor, that I was able to arrange disparate elements into a feeling of wholeness.  The resulting composition reflects a dynamic continuum, in overlapping circles in transition and in motion. Within this structure are references to local history, native species, the elements of earth, air, water and fire, the phases of the moon, the seasons, as well as noting Bardstown's place on the globe along with its sister city in France, etc.

The dual role of the public library as both an archive of human knowledge and an active portal for exploring the world is also represented. I utilized a variety of visual styles for depicting disparate elements, such as the juxtaposition of Renaissance engravings of constellations with a contemporary interpretation of the night sky, pixilated imagery, musical notation and varied fonts in wording around learning and understanding. This "Glass Tapestry" is the result.

The children's room includes a transom and sidelights around the door leading to the reading garden. These windows are filled with silhouettes of children and animals playing, reading, riding, etc., against a streaky sunset sky.

silh of boy reading for text pages.JPG

Nelson County Public Library - New Haven, KY

New Haven Trio    22” x 10’

Following the country highway from Bardstown to New Haven, past bourbon distilleries tucked into the folds of hills, the architecture of small farms and drifts of forest appear around every turn. Soon the arable land becomes a green river flowing between long chains of hills, called Knobs in this region.

History shows up in the center of this tiny town in the form of the Rolling Fork River and the vintage railway at the Kentucky Railway Museum. Transportation via these two avenues supported early settlement and development, played a part in the action that took place here during the Civil War, and brought people from around the world to the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, the home of Thomas Merton.

As in many small towns, the public library functions as a crucial heart of the community. The windows I created here make reference to flowing water, native botanicals, farming, railways, the Knobs, and the role of the library in supporting a lifetime of learning.

New Haven slice.JPG

Nelson County Public Library - Bloomfield, KY

Reflection Parlor   7' 6" x 7' 7"

Bloomfield is as one would imagine from its name, a charming little town surrounded by verdant and tidy farmland. The town proper is a small crossroad distinguished by the Victorian stores and buildings which have been lovingly restored and given new purposes. As I made my initial drive here, I saw a pride in community, family farms, land stewardship and an appreciation of shared history everywhere I looked.

The new branch library includes a comfortable reading area where patrons may linger and read. I thought of this area like a Victorian parlor, and treated the wall of windows there as the wall of a parlor would have been decorated.

 My windows create the impression of an illuminated wall hung with glowing portraits. These portraits are done as silhouettes, a technique popular during the Victorian age before the common use of photography, and set in ornate picture frames.

Rendered and inscribed into each of the silhouetted heads and their frames are images and words.  Local food crops and wildflowers, historic events, ghost stories, etc. unique to Bloomfield, as well as quotations from writers appear. Passages from authors, playwrights and poets from many cultures and throughout history, including several from Kentucky, hint at the literary treasures to be found in this local library.

A guide to the quotes and their authors is posted nearby, with a listing of their works which may be found within the collection.

Bloomfield slice.JPG

Paul Sawyier Public Library - Frankfort, KY

Trees of Kentucky    6' x 12' each

The public library in Kentucky’s capital takes it’s name from the 19th century landscape painter Paul Sawyier.  Inspired by the great beauty of the central Kentucky landscape, especially the Kentucky River as it flows through the region, he devoted himself to painting it over much of his life.

When I heard that the new library building would  carry this artist’s name forward, I was moved to create windows which reflect my own response to the exquisite natural beauty of this region.

According to some scientists, Kentucky is the second most botanically diverse place on earth, and the array of trees and birds native to this region is vast. To give an intimate view of this richness,  life-sized leaves, fruits, flowers, nuts and seeds of native trees are arranged into dense kaleidoscopes – one Spring and the other Fall. A border of the tree names forms each window perimeter.

Above this pair of windows on the Children’s second floor, a Palladian window is filled with the branches of the state tree, the Tulip, in which a spectrum of native birds are perched, with their names listed in the border..

Fall slice.jpg

Paul Sawyier Public Library

2018 addition - Frankfort, KY

Navigating the cosmic and the immediate    14' x 11'- 6”

Twelve years after my first library project in the Paul Sawyier Public Library, I happily returned to create a window for the new addition. The library is located in the state capitol and carries the name of the beloved landscape painter Paul Sawyier (1865-1917) whose work was inspired by the natural beauty of this region.

I reflected on the relationship between the natural landscape and the role of the library. I imagined people throughout time learning about the particular species which make up the tapestry of life in this place, and gazing into the vast night skies overhead. These observations blossomed into diverse streams of knowledge, artistic expression, literary reflections, etc. which are accessible to patrons of the library. My window includes imagery of the heavens, the local landscape, numerous species living here in the water, air and on the land, and wording which alludes to our lifelong journey of exploration and discovery. A guide to the species is located nearby.

At the heart of the community, the library exists to support the exploration, education and inspiration of every citizen.


Owen County Public Library - Owenton, KY

Quilt Squares    5 windows, 3.5’ x 3.5’ each

Tower Windows    3 windows 2’ x 2’ each

The family farms and orchards of Owen County are often ornamented with artwork on barns. This may be a painted quilt square or beautifully executed murals of the tobacco growing heritage here. On my first visit to such a sparsely populated and rural area, this widespread participation in public art projects inspired me.

At the library I learned that the county farm families had participated in the choosing and painting of over 75 quilt squares to mount on their family farm buildings. Stories were written about each farm's history, and along with photos, were collected into a book. Anyone can now travel through the county on this quilt trail and read Owen County's rich and varied history.

To me, this project resembled the making of a quilt itself, where scraps of fabric carrying their own stories are pieced together to tell a much larger story.

For 5 square windows in the new library I chose 5 quilt block designs which related to aspects of life here. Within these colored blocks I painted silhouettes relating to each pattern. In the tobacco leaf block I painted a tobacco barn with a crew unloading the leaves into the barn for drying. Around the perimeter of the appliqued rose block are silhouettes of many local animals and birds. My favorite is the star block, around which are women of different ages stitching together, just as they have always stitched their family’s lives and stories together.

In the children's area are 3 small windows depicting a starry night sky, birds and butterflies in the air and near the floor a window filled with animals and insects around a pond. In the form of a dewdrop is a faceted jewel at eye-level for a small child. Looking through this jewel at the landscape beyond gives a view of the world as a dragonfly sees it.

Owenton slice 2.JPG

Pulaski County Public Library - Somerset, KY

Reading, the magical doorway    5 windows, 8' 5" x 25" each

                Postcards from the journey to the library   5 windows, 8'5" x 25" each                   

I was delighted to be asked to design windows for young children and for the room where the regional library board meets.

Children 12 and under have a floor to themselves, where they can curl up with a book inside a hollow tree or on a parent's lap in a comfortable chair. This library has something I wish every library had, but I've only seen here: when a young person reads their first book on their own, they may come to the library and ring the special bell which hangs outside, letting the whole town know that there is a newly literate person in their community.

Next to this bell is a curving bank of windows. Treating the 5 windows as one landscape, I painted children sitting in a field of native wildflowers, each reading a book. Overhead, ornate silhouettes of intricate figures and animals from classic nursery rhymes, fairy tales and other stories like Kipling's Jungle Book dance across a blazing sunset sky. Above this, a starry night sky is set with jewels. The librarians occasionally hold contests to see who can name all the characters and stories in the window silhouettes.

Downstairs in the Board meeting room, the business of running the libraries is conducted. As a way to put this work in perspective, I created scenes from five points in history, signposts in the journey to the modern public library. Painted in the historic style of each culture and period are an Egyptian scribe writing on papyrus, the early Chinese paper making process, illuminated manuscripts, Gutenberg in his shop with his first printing press, and a scene from a modern library.

Somerset slice.JPG

Spencer County Public Library - Taylorsville, KY

Spencer County Crazy Quilt    ~ 3' x 5’  each

As a stained glass artist I create windows which tell stories as artists in this medium have traditionally done. The stories I tell are about particular places. I like to include details of the natural species and geology which have shaped the character of the communities that grow in these places.

My research into Spencer County revealed a place of natural abundance and beauty, which has given rise to a tradition of farming, natural recreation, and thriving communities. Organizing details of this complex story into a visually interesting work of art is a challenge, but one that I enjoy.

I recalled another art form which met this challenge beautifully - the crazy quilt. This term refers to a quilt style which deviated from repeated pieced-block designs, and allowed the maker to use odd shapes of many colors and types of fabric. Fancy free-form embroidery followed seams and the most elaborate examples featured embroidered pictures completely obscuring the underlying fabrics. Subject matter was far-ranging, including sentiments about family and friends, local flora and fauna,  patriotic themes, current events, and exotic imagery from other cultures. This 'fancy work' was done almost exclusively by women, using the home sewing and embroidery skills they already possessed.

This art form took hold as a national craze during the late 1860s, and was practiced by women of every social level. New aesthetic attitudes reflected the idea that beauty should be found in even the humblest home, and could elevate the minds and fortunes of the family.

By referencing the crazy quilt, I was able to include diverse details in a free-association design structure. Imagery ranging from local floral and fauna, limestone geology and native peoples, to farming, recreational activities, historical events, buildings and floods, etc., build a rich visual story.

I hope that this work will inspire curiosity about the rich legacy of life here.

Read all about it at your local library!

Taylorsville slice.JPG