|Temporary student art project installation on 12/14/11 in the West Courtyard Garden behind the Benjamin Building.|
This time of year, we often have blooms of a different nature spontaneously sprouting up around and near the Art/Sociology Building. At the end of the fall semester, final art projects are due and many of them are placed outdoors. They suddenly magically appear overnight like ephemeral flowers, often bringing beauty and freshness to our campus landscape at a time when it appears somewhat dreary as most trees and shrubs have lost their leaves in preparation for winter and even the late fall blooming plants are well past their prime.
While the majority of the student projects appear to be conceived without thought as to how that they will be integrated into the existing landscape, the artist of this installation in the West Courtyard Garden at the Benjamin Building appears to have given quite a bit of thought to this issue. This site appears to be an integral part of this project. The narrow triangular form between the two sidewalks is repeated in the narrow triangular form between the legs of the wooden tripod and in the adjacent wire cloth cone. The triangle formed on the top edge of the red brick Maryland 'M' decoration in the middle of the patio is emphasized with a triangle of carefully placed mulch on the square and wood frame placed over the circle in the middle of the patio.
The use of the square over a circle on the patio reminded me of a simplification of the complex circle and square motif decorating the front of American architect Louis Sullivan's Jewel Box in Grinnell, Iowa. The Jewel Box is a bank that Sullivan designed that is still in operation as a bank to this day. It is well worth a side trip if you are traveling along I-80 in Iowa. Be aware of short lobby hours as I think they closed the lobby at 2:30 pm the day we were there. Even though we arrived after the lobby was closed, an older, kind hearted gentleman from Grinnell came to our rescue. He told us that he banked there and then proceeded to pound on the side door so hard that the staff inside could not ignore him. They opened the door for us and we were allowed to enter the bank from the new addition behind the Jewel Box.
It appeared like any other bank until we reached the Sullivan designed part of the bank that had been preserved in its original condition and included the original check writing desks designed by Sullivan in the lobby. My jaw dropped and my mouth was hanging open in disbelief at the beauty before me. The feeling was very similar to a deeply moving religious experience. The black and white pictures that I had seen of the exterior years ago did nothing to prepare me for the beauty of the interior with its fine woodwork, incredible light fixtures, wall of stained glass windows behind the cashiers and overhead skylights etc. It was a work of fine art that you could walk through and be totally immersed within. It is wonderful that this building and its contents have been preserved for us all to enjoy. I can't think of many buildings built in recent decades that will stand up to the test of time and still be so beautiful so many years after that they were first built. BBC Scotland has an excellent video on man's pursuit of beauty and why beauty matters.
The extensive use of white in the above student project also reminded me of one of my favorite artists, Louise Nevelson. Louise used white almost exclusively in many of her projects during a certain period in her career. She was quite an insightful person as you can see in her wonderful quote below.
When people lose their center, they go in for material things. But they can come back to it, sometimes with a difference, and sometimes they blossom more. I think we all fall, but some of us have something that we pick ourselves up and go on, to greater things, and I think the difference between not going on and going on is where life really fulfills itself. Life isn't one straight line. Never. Most of us have to be transplanted to the proper environment, like a tree, before that we blossom. -Artist, Louis Nevelson
I am betting money, marbles and chalk that the artist that designed and installed the project in the West Courtyard Garden at the Benjamin Building was not inspired by the things that I was reminded of, when that I viewed the artist's work. However, I think good art sparks the imagination and psyche of the viewer in a positive manner, even if that it was not in the way that the artist intended.
Below are some photographs of other student projects that caught my eye on Wednesday, December 14, 2011. One picture was taken at an earlier date and it is noted in the caption. We have photographs of some of the previous student art project/sculptures included in a Flickr photo album of campus art work and fountains.
|The above two photos were taken on the upper end of Mayer Mall near Preinkert Field House.|
|The above photo was taken in the courtyard area East of the Art/Sociology Building.|
|The above photo was taken on the South side of the Architecture Building.|
|The above 5 photos were taken on the pedestrian bridge on the North side of the Architecture Building.|
|The photo of this wispy creation was taken on December 5, 2011 on Tawes Plaza, just North of the Art/Sociology Building.|
|The above three photos were taken at a construction site where that a retaining wall is being reconstructed Northwest of the Art/Sociology Building.|
The metal sculpture above reminds me of a wind tossed Hare's Foot Fern (Phlebodium aureum) as well as other plants.
We are lucky to have these projects that spark our imaginations suddenly appear, to be able to live in the moment with them and enjoy them in our landscape, even though like blossoms, they may be gone tomorrow.
Sam Bahr, author and photographer