Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Dartmouth: Public art brings the museum to campus, enlivens outdoors

Shared from The Dartmouth:
Enriching where we work, study and play, outdoor art exposes community members to a range of artists and styles as they walk across campus. From colorful graffiti-inspired yarn bombing to a melancholy stainless steel spider, public art has piqued interest in the arts in an accessible and affordable way.

With more than 14 works scattered across campus, students are bound to come across a piece on their daily walking routes, even if they do not pass through the Hood Museum's doors.

Perhaps the best known work of public art on campus is one of the newest, "Crouching Spider," located in Maffei Arts Plaza outside the Black Family Visual Arts Center. Created by Louise Bourgeois in 2003, this piece is an ode to her mother, who died when Bourgeois was just beginning her career as an artist. The piece is made of bronze, stainless steel, silver nitrate and polished patina and is on loan from the Bourgeois family estate for one year.

Studio art major Gabriel Barrios '15 said he appreciates how "the gestures and the angles all work together to present something deeper than what's visibly present." His Drawing 1 professor took the class to see the spider and explained the symbolism behind the piece and the connection to the artist's remembrance for her mother.

"It also represents the strength and power of a woman, rather than just the woman," Barrio said. "It is a largely feminist, powerful and personal piece which makes it even more amazing."

Hood director and chair of the public art committee, Michael Taylor, has previously called Bourgeois's spider "the greatest piece of public sculpture that's been made in the last 25 years."

Also located in the newly designed arts plaza are the "Dartmouth Panels," five colorful aluminum rectangles attached to the facade of the brick building across from the Visual Arts Center. This site-specific work, created by Ellsworth Kelly, was dedicated on Sept. 14 in honor of the center's opening ceremony.

But Dartmouth's public art pieces expand beyond this corner of campus. Various abstract sculptures dot alcoves around Dartmouth, including minimalist sculptor Richard Serra's "Two-Plate Prop," two plates of Cor-Ten steel propped against each other and weighing a staggering 2,600 pounds, and George Warren Rickey's "Two Lines Oblique Down, Variation VI," five stainless-steel components welded into a "Y" that play with reflective surfaces. Both pieces are located in an alcove inside the Hopkins Center.

Toward the north end of campus, Charles Perry's "D2D," a large bronze sculpture resembling an organic compound, stands in front of Fairchild. This is an appropriate choice, as the former artist-in-residence was also a puzzle-maker and architect, fascinated with the relationship between art and the natural sciences.

Also on the lawn in front of Fairchild is Beverly Pepper's 1977 "Thel," five pyramidal forms of Cor-Ten steel that sprout from the grass. "Thel" is a part of Pepper's "Earthbound Sculptures," a series that interacts with its natural environment.

Perhaps more notable to prospective students and their families is Peter Irniq's "Inuksuk," which adorns the lawn of McNutt Hall. Inusuk, which describes the structure of the stones in a piled formation, literally translates to "likeness of a person," traditionally a beacon for native travelers living in Canada's northernmost regions. The sculpture was crafted by hand specifically for the College, and the stones comprising the sculpture were selected from a field in Haverfill.

No longer on view is the Moskow Linn Architects' "Ice Chimes," which provided a soundtrack during Hanover's icy winter. Formerly located in front of the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center, the 20-foot fall piece functioned as a weather-responsive musical sculpture that chimed when it collected ice and snow.

Taylor said the Hood was "thrilled" to exhibit the sculpture last winter.

"One of the goals of the Year of the Arts is to bring art to different parts of the campus, and Ice Chimes,' with its blend of architecture, art, engineering, music, and science seemed like the perfect work to install outside the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center," he said.

Students have recently installed their own smaller, whimsical pieces of public art on campus and in the Upper Valley. Last spring, Cally Womick '13 received a grant through the College's Year of the Arts to fund her yarn bombing public artwork.

Yarn bombing, which is also known as graffiti knitting or guerilla knitting, is a type of street art that uses colorful yarn rather than paint or chalk to cover spaces in a community.

Womick said she was attracted to the idea because of the "intervention" of the art into student's daily life.

"They serve to make the space more beautiful and engage the people in a different way and make people just feel happy," she said. "We have lots of really intelligent, creative people and I think most of us have a sense of humor and like to have fun, and I'd love to have more art that reflects that."

A review of public art at Dartmouth would not be complete without George Lundeen's statue of Robert Frost near the BEMA. Created in 1996, the statue has been featured on countless admissions booklets and informational websites.

The work, which captures Frost as he writes "Mending Wall," is often featured on students' personal Dartmouth bucket-lists as a place to visit before they graduate.

Public art brings the fine arts into daily life. Not only have these various works served to beautify campus, they have helped foster a community appreciation for the arts.

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