Connections: Sabbatical 1998 • Description
3. Public and Private Sculpture Exhibited Outdoors
Sculpture Parks at Museums, Public Spaces and Institutions of Higher Learning
My report is about different approaches to exhibiting sculpture, surroundings and space. The motivation for making such an investigation was the desire to see sculpture incorporated onto our own campus. I feel strongly about this because our campus is begging to be made more hospitable to students, faculty, and visitors. There is no doubt in my mind that sculpture would be mentally stimulating and improve the quality of life on campus.
Of all the sculpture incorporated into campus settings one of the most impressive was the University of Washington. The sculpture was contemporary as well as historical. It was beautifully landscaped and situated in the most advantageous, accessible places on campus. They are obviously proud of their collection. They advertise the presence of sculpture on highway signs as you approach the campus and on the main highway from Seattle to Vancouver. When you enter the campus and inquire at the information booth about the sculpture, visitors are supplied with a map showing each sculpture location.
Another campus that impressed me was the UCLA Sculpture Park. The breath and settings for the sculpture was truly impressive. This collection was, in contrast to the University of Washington Collection, more of an overview of the history of contemporary sculpture.
The one campus that I found which points the way towards treating art work on campuses and should be an example to emulate, is the University of Mexico. They have incorporated their muralists on to University buildings and have included sculptural mosaics by Rivera to the entrance of the stadium. The artwork was planned into the university, as it was built, not just as an afterthought.
A few of the public sculpture parks that I visited were Pepsi at Purchase, Grounds for Sculpture NJ, Busch Gardens, NC, Houston Museum, Los Angeles County Museum, and St. Louis. All of these were quite different in scope and design. One of most intriguing public sculpture parks was the one at the Pepsi Headquarters. It is within walking distance right at the entrance of University of NY at Purchase. This is wonderful for sculpture students to have such an extensive survey of modem sculpture at their disposal. Grounds for Sculpture is a welcome attempt by a commercial art casting foundry to showcase their clients work (in cast bronze, and in other materials). They have an indoor area that directly ties In with the outdoor area. It is constructed mostly of glass. This is one of the most unique exhibition techniques that I have encountered. There was much to be learned in the way sculpture is displayed outdoors, both from a positive and negative point of view.
The SUNYAB campus has much potential for permanent installation that could become an investment and the pride of the University.
The visual arts have a special problem in that works such as heavy and cumbersome sculptures are difficult to ship. So far, the University Gallery exhibits work that can be deflated and packaged easily. This relegates visual works to performances. Although performance visual art may be one component, it should not be over emphasized. The mechanism for bringing this proposal to fruition is through The Casting/Welding Institute, University Art Gallery, other interested parties on campus and in the Community. Al Harris, Director of the University Art Gallery, and I have often discussed this but it needs to be discussed in committee. This project would demand commitment and resources. I also observed and documented, by photos and tapes, how visitors and students interacted to the sculpture displayed at other locations.
I used three cameras and one camcorder on my sabbatical. The cameras were a Nikon 35 mm 90s, used for color 100 ASA, and a Nikon 35-mm F3 high-eyepoint, for color 160 ASA tungsten with several lenses. One Pentax 35mm compact water-resistant camera, I used for print film so that I could date and return the photos home, to let people know where I was in case I became one of the disappeared. The CCD-TR54 Sony camcorder was for a motion and sound record.
One added aspect of this project was that I became thoroughly familiar with the various complex workings of the cameras. I must use these cameras for my work with the Sculpture program, Casting/Welding Institute and documentation/copy work on all levels.
One personal connection in my travels was with that of my grandfather, George Flanagan. My grandmother Kate or "Katchey", as we called her, was very much in love with him. I never knew him as he died after returning home as a result of contracting malaria in the Philippines. In Cuba he was one of Teddy Roosevelt's RoughRiders, serving as his orderly, Calvary, Troop G, 14th Regiment. He took care of Roosevelt's horse, clothing, etc. After Cuba, when leaving for the Philippines, T. R. told my grandfather to make sure he saw the Grand Canyon on his way back, which he did. I visited the north and south rim, hiking into the Canyon on Bright Angel trail. Since I never knew my grandfather, this experience fulfilled an inner need to make a connection.