Art of Adler: "Wisdom's Puzzle"

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Spring 2005 IJ staff

Wisdom’s Puzzle

Lloyd Schermer’s colorful collage of type finds a home
in the Adler Building’s Hall of Fame

Lloyd Schermer’s artwork is more than just a colorful collection of letters, numbers and images.

A closer look reveals journalism terms such as “reporter,” “morgue” and “editor” which Schermer has strategically placed in his type collage.

Schermer’s latest piece of artwork, entitled “Wisdom’s Puzzle,” was installed Feb. 14 in the Adler Building’s Hall of Fame room.

The large piece of art is comprised of blocks of wood type, foundry (cast metal) type and engravings. The pieces of type are made of five wood varieties: birch, beach, ebony, mahogany and maple.

Schermer said some of the wood blocks are hundreds of years old. The vintage blocks were sanded to remove ink residue, then waxed and buffed with bees wax to give a luster.

At his workshop in Basalt, Colo., Schermer estimated he had “thousands” of pounds of type, though “vowels are in short supply.”

To begin constructing the puzzle, Schermer said he started with the letters that spell “IOWA,” which, measuring 26 inches, are the largest pieces of type he used. From there on, he balanced letter sizes and colors to complete his artwork puzzle.

The words and images all appear backwards, in the fashion they would be set up on a printing press.

The artwork was assembled from two segments fitted together, with the seams covered by strategically placed blocks of type.

In addition to the newsroom terms scattered throughout his artwork, Schermer said he deliberately creates phrases that celebrate journalism. One small seemingly random section of the puzzle reveals, with close examination, the phrase, “The key to good government . . . read newspapers.”

A former top executive of Davenport-based Lee Enterprises, Schermer can certainly vouch for the importance and virtues of journalism.

Now retired, Schermer and his wife, Betty, live in Aspen, Colo., approximately 20 minutes from the workshop where he creates his artwork. Schermer said he has been taking art classes and creating his unique artwork for years.

His idea for the type collages came to him after guests to his home showed interest in a piece of type featuring an Aspen leaf which he had hanging on a door.

Schermer has created six pieces similar to the one placed in the Adler Building. His artwork is hanging in places such as the Lee Enterprises corporate headquarters, the University of Montana’s School of Journalism and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

- Carrie Napolilli
© 2005/University of Iowa; All Rights Reserved