The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 7, 2011

Library transformed into ghoulish gallery

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Edgar Allen Poe would love this place. Especially this month.

Already designed and furnished in the 17th and 18th century English style, it’s not hard to imagine a tale of mystery and macabre tucked away on one of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library’s shelves.

This month, there are ravens. And grandfather clocks. And skeletons. OK, so they’re playing poker -- it’s still decidedly ghoulish.

The exhibit is the brainchild of Dianne Cantrell, a Joplin resident who last year began dabbling in the arts -- she’s known for her paintings in Instant Karma, including Alfred Hitchcock eating a hot dog -- but who is reluctant to call herself an artist.

Tucked into the far recesses of the Joplin Public Library, this month the space is referred to as Post Mortem Hall.

“I just always really loved Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, because I think everybody can be like a child on Halloween,” Cantrell said. “It’s exciting, and spooky, and imaginative.”

Post Memorial director Leslie Simpson joined in on the fun of preparing the exhibit, conjuring up a vase wrapped in barbed wire holding a solitary finger (with red fingernail polish, of course), and adding cobwebs with a light touch over and around the library’s usual furnishings.

At the entrance, pause for a moment under a ceiling of bats to have your photo taken carnival-style seated on a crescent moon.

Sit at the card table in the skeleton chairs and gaze into the crystal ball. Take a peek at Cantrell’s handcrafted 8-foot grandfather clock, unlike nothing you’ve ever seen, to be sure -- it’s filled with three skeletons, a nearly invisible secret message, a pendulum heart and a secret code. Or, if you dare, say hello to Dracula inside a hand-built coffin.

The art reveals much of Cantrell, who spent much of the summer preparing it.

“Those three skeletons in the clock, they think if they can get the heart pendulum, they can get their childhood back,” she said. “It’s very personal to me, almost like an autobiography. I think of it as being created in 1961 when I was born.”

Want to see?

The exhibit is open Mondays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. On the Third Thursday Art Walk Oct. 20, Civil War expert Steve Cottrell will tell ghost stories beginning at 7 p.m.