Anyone who visits the new Library Hall can’t miss The Big Show by Cassandra Barney. This beautiful artwork is on display on the north side of the Library Hall’s doTERRA Lobby and is a permanent addition to the Orem Library’s art collection. We asked Cassandra to describe her creative process and how this special work of art came to be.


The Big Show
Cassandra Barney
The Big Show, 2021
80″ x 50″

So many people worked hard to get ready for this moment. It’s the opening night of the big show. The programs are printed, sitting in neat stacks by the entrances, and the stage hands are dressed in their best black slacks. There are many parts to a production of this scale: lighting, music, choreography, sets, costumes, props, and animals. There are also many people involved: performers, directors, animal wranglers, and the crew. They all know what they are supposed to do and that they need to stay focused and work together. Everyone just needs to follow the plan.

But on the stage, as in life, things rarely go as planned. People make mistakes. Equipment fails. Animals don’t follow directions. Success comes with accepting the unexpected, adjusting to new situations, being creative and flexible, paying attention to others, and finding joy along the way. Then the show will be spectacular.

One of the perks of being quarantined was that I had more time to paint, which allowed me to paint this idea of a big show, on a larger scale than I usually work. I am fascinated by toy paper theaters and their elaborate Victorian designs. Stage design is a crucial element which sets the tone for the production. I began this painting by framing the stage in bright, exciting shades of red and gold. Next, I picked images of things I enjoy that you might find in a play, ballet, or circus—like swans, acrobats, and mer-people. Finally, I added unexpected elements that are surprising and a little whimsical, like an elephant entering from stage left, a running man, and an ostrich on a leash. I wanted the end result to be colorful and rich, full of things to look at and explore. All the elements together tell a story, but what happens in that story is left to the viewer.

I was raised in Orem and have enjoyed visiting our library over the years. I remember the excitement of checking out a pile of books as a little kid and I remember doing research there for papers as a high schooler. I have visited the library as an adult to look for inspiration in the books about artists. I have even gone to the library to sit and draw in my sketchbook when I needed a quiet place to work through my thoughts. Orem Library has been the venue for some great performances for years and the addition of the new Library Hall will be spectacular. The perfect place for The Big Show to be hung is in our new Library Hall.

My father, James C. Christensen, has an old studio at Sundance, which is where I painted The Big Show. If you are familiar with my father’s work, you can find a little tribute to him.

I hope that people will enjoy The Big Show and the great, spectacular performances that will take place in the new Library Hall!