Sculpting history

Sam Twarek

A guide to campus sculpture

The smaller brain sits behind the bookshelf walls of the Behind the Brain Plaza in front of Merrill Hall. Sculptor Brinsley Tyrrell said the idea behind this sculpture was knowledge that feeds the brain. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Dan Kloock

Two arms of “The Kent Four” sculpture reach out to the trees surrounding the Art Building. This sculpture, created in 1971 by former faculty-artist Alastair Granville-Jackson, is a tribute to the student who died on May 4. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Dan Kloock

The steel sheets of Don Drumm’s “Solar Totem #1” have rusted over time. The sculpture, created in 1967, became a part of Kent State history when a bullet passed through one of the metal facades. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Dan Kloock

“Tilt 2005” sits near the side entrance to the Art Building. Sculptor Steven Siegel said the piece is meant to decompose and will get more interesting as time goes on. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Dan Kloock

Two side-by-side figures are represented in David Davis’ sculpture “Walking Together.” The heavy link chain that runs between the two arms are meant to convey a sense of unity and harmony. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Dan Kloock

The stone foundations are all that remain of “Partially Buried Woodshed.” In 1970, artist Robert Smithson and students from the School of Art piled dirt on top of an old shed near the Liquid Crystal Institute. In 1984, the university removed most of the p

Credit: Dan Kloock

Nicole Parrot, sophomore visual communication design major, hurries into the Art Building several times a week for class, barely noticing the large black sculpture that towers above the main entrance.

“It’s just because I know it’s there that I don’t really notice it anymore,” she said of the Walking Together sculpture. “I’m not really sure who made it or why it’s there, but I walk past it almost every single day.”

To see just how many students were familiar with campus sculpture, 20 were asked to name one and then identify a photograph of Walking Together, one of the tallest works of art on campus.

Of all the students asked, a majority was able to name some sort of sculpture, but only six knew the location of Walking Together.

“I personally didn’t know where the sculpture was because I never have to walk near that area for any of my classes,” said Aubrey Slauterbeck, freshman interior design major. “I think most students will notice the sculpture the first time they walk past it, but after the first few times you don’t really notice it because you’re so used to it being there.”

It’s important for students to know what kind of sculptural art is located on campus, said Christine Havice, director of the School of Art.

“Everybody needs to be aware of the sculptures,” Havice said. “(Artists) don’t just fund or create these pieces and then forget about them.”

Sculpture on campus doesn’t simply fill up space, but functions as an important part of the landscape.

“I think sculpture is very important to the campus,” said Thomas Euclide, director of the Office of the University Architect. “It’s thought evoking, and it’s a critical part to higher thinking. It’s what forms the fabric of our campus.”

Euclide said sculpture can make its way onto campus through two ways.

“In the early ’90s, the legislature passed a law that required 1 percent of capitally funded building projects over $4 million go toward artworks,” Euclide said. “Every project we’ve done since that time has had a portion of the money set aside for art.”

Artists also may choose to donate their sculptures to campus.

‘Behind the Brain’ Plaza

This “interactive” sculpture was created in 2001 by former sculpture professor Brinsley Tyrrell.

The most noticeable part of the sculpture is the 13-foot-tall sculpted brain that faces Terrace Drive in front of Merrill Hall.

The spinal nerve of the brain flows into the ground and leads to a plaza containing a small fountain, a smaller brain, benches and sculpted books lining the bookshelf walls.

“My first idea for it was that we needed to build a wall bank to shut out all the traffic,” Tyrrell said. “Eventually that bank became the library of books, and from the books evolved the brain, called The Seed of Inspiration.”

Tyrrell said the sculpture is meant to evoke an idea as well as provide a functional space.

“The idea behind the plaza is knowledge feeding the brain and great ideas coming from that,” he said. “With my piece, I tried not to just create a sculpture, but to create an environment that would be nice to sit in and nice to work in.”

‘Tilt 2005’

Near the front entrance to the Art Building sits Steve Siegel’s sculpture Tilt 2005.

This work of art is a 6-foot-tall sculpture made out of a combination of wood, paper and dirt.

The piece is one of the last parts of a longer series of work by Siegel that involves geology and landscape.

The circular-shaped bin was created out of a framework of 2-by-4 pieces of wood covered in sheets of paper with a hollow center.

A piece of plywood was placed over the top and was covered with about six inches of dirt and grass.

“The nature of the medium itself is biodegradable over a long period of time,” Siegel said. “It gets more interesting as time goes on.”

Students took an active role in helping to construct and protect the sculpture when it was created in 2005.

“The students at Kent State were the most engaged, involved and interested in the project,” Siegel said. “A couple of the students literally spent a couple nights camped out on top to protect it from drunken people walking by.”

Siegel said he is currently working on a long series of works that focus more on “biology and the credible complexity of life.”

‘Walking Together’

This sculpture, created by David Davis in 1972, was part of a series created in order to represent motion changing into form.

The cedar wood and aluminum structure stands 20 feet tall and spans a length of about 18 feet.

It represents two forms walking together in the same stride with arms extending from either end.

Davis chose black and white to convey the racial tensions of the time period, and a long, heavy link chain connects the arms to convey a sense of unity and shared movement.

“Mr. Davis was a prolific sculptor for many years and has his works displayed all over the country,” said Bruce Ackerman, caretaker of the Davis Studio and Fabrication Studio in Cleveland. “Institutions would approach him for their work, and he would get busy making the maquettes.”

Hundreds of Davis’ maquettes, or smaller models of the larger sculptures, line the walls of his studio, which was created to preserve his work after his death in 2002.

Attached to the studio are The Sculpture Center and the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve, which were created to preserve other artists’ work after their death.

‘The Kent Four’

This sculpture was created in 1971 by former faculty-artist Alastair Granville-Jackson as a response and tribute to the four students who died during the May 4 shootings.

The red-orange sculpture made of hollow metal tubes formerly sat in front of Stopher Hall, but it was put into storage during the re-building of the new Stopher and Johnson halls.

“It was fading and the color looked really awful,” Havice said. “The university decided to refund and repaint the sculpture, and then it was replaced near the Art Building.”

Anderson Turner, director of galleries at Kent State, said the sculpture’s metal tubes were originally meant to shoot flames.

Solar Totem #1

Another piece that relates to the events of May 4, 1970, is “Solar Totem #1” located in front of Taylor Hall.

Created in 1967, this sculpture is made of a series of geometrical Cor-Ten steel shapes stacked on top of one another.

The sculpture was directly in the line of the shots fired on May 4, and the piece instantly became a part of history when a bullet flew through one of the metal facades.

Students chalked a peace sign around the bullet hole shortly after it was discovered.

‘Partially Buried Woodshed’

Perhaps the most internationally famous artist to produce a sculpture on campus was Robert Smithson with his work Partially Buried Woodshed.

In January 1970, Smithson and students from the School of Art used a backhoe to pile 20 loads of dirt onto an abandoned woodshed until the center beam cracked.

Originally, Smithson intended to pour loads of mud onto the shed, but cold conditions forced him to rethink his methods.

The idea behind the shed is related to the Tilt 2005 sculpture, in that both involve a gradual decomposition.

“It’s an interesting kind of legacy,” Havice said. “He didn’t care as much about the shed as much as he did the idea of the shed.”

After the events of May 4, only four months after the woodshed was completed, students painted the words “May 4 Kent 70” on the main lintel.

In 1984, the university removed most of the physical remains of the sculpture, but the foundations of the woodshed are still visible among a grove of trees near the Liquid Crystal Institute.

Contact College of the Arts and College of Architecture and Environmental Design reporter Sam Twarek at [email protected].