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Section Header
What the Hell is that?

Photo
DANIELLE MALOTT/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The see-saw sculpture, located just north of the fountain near Old Main, was fully functioning before vandals broke it.
By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday March 11, 2003

Campus art mystifies students, enriches daily routines

"What the hell is that?"

That is a question asked every day at many campus sites where art often confuses the students of UA. The Wildcat's crack team of investigators set out to shed light on the many "Unsolved Mysteries of UA Art" and give students an explanation for the bewildering stuff they see every day.

The Grown-ups' Seesaw

Located to the north of Old Main, the sculpture could perhaps look like a giant Erector-Set to students. But to the artist, the piece that took nine months to build is a labor of love with significant meaning.

"Its purpose is to evoke frustration or deal with the notion of adults not playing as they grow up," Laddie Pepke, the artist, said.

Some students don't immediately see meaning in the giant seesaw, which won an art department contest to gain its placement.

"I thought it was a seesaw, but it looks kind of broken now and it's tied to the ground. So I'm not really sure what it is," mechanical engineering sophomore Brian White said.

For the annual Centennial Sculpture Program contest, art students bring proposals to the Public Art Advisory Committee and the winning proposal is funded. The sculpture is built and remains up for a year, until it is replaced by a new sculpture.


Check it out:

Students can read about campus artwork at: http://www.arizona.edu/tours/artworks/


While it's not meant to be played with, the sculpture could initially have been used as a fully functioning seesaw, before being recently bent and vandalized.

Some students think the $6,200 it cost to build the sculpture could have been used more efficiently to improve the look of the campus.

"It looks like another waste of money by the school," said Kevin Bratcher, a pre-business sophomore. "Bushes and plants and trees would be a lot cheaper, and they still look nice."

But Pepke thinks art has a unique role on campus that can't be replaced by foliage.

"I think art needs to be incorporated somehow, whether through public art. Art, I think, is important," Pepke said. "I would say that my opinion about it is that certain pieces I like and certain pieces I dislike, but public art as a whole is a good thing, whether or not I like some pieces."

Twenty-Five Scientists: A Sculptured Gateway

"It's probably one of the more recognized and enjoyed pieces of public art on campus," said Mark Novak, a member of the Public Art Advisory Committee.

The archway of scientists built in 1992 on the north side of the Koffler building was funded by a university policy that provides one half percent of capital project funding for public art, Novak said.

"It has all the different biological science stuff. It's a little weird, but it's kind of cool," said biology senior Pat Harrington.

While it may appear to be a poor attempt at art by students who are better suited for science, the piece is generally enjoyed. Cacti give it a southwestern flare, and of course, there are the colorful scientists, some of which represent UA faculty members.

"I like those little guys; I think they're cute," said psychology senior Melissa Austin.
Photo
EMILY REID/Arizona Daily Wildcat
"Those Who Gave Their Lives," which is affixed to the Student Union Memorial Center, was also a part of the original student union.

Those Who Gave Their Lives

This year, a semi-new addition to campus artwork showed up on the facade of the remodeled Student Union Memorial Center.

"Those Who Gave Their Lives," a piece from UA's original student union, was created in 1951 by then-Arizona State University art professor Phillips Sanderson.

Since the union's opening gave it new life, the sculpture/mural, which faces the mall, has sparked controversy about what exactly it depicts.

"I've heard everything from a whale to a plant to some weird bird," said K.C. Rosburg, a molecular and cellular biology sophomore. "I have no idea what it is. I think it's kind of cool, though. I just don't know how it ties in."

Others saw it a little differently.

"Is it a spoon? I see all the little people, I don't know what the big thing is; it looks kind of like a spoon. Maybe because it's the union, and we're supposed to eat there," Austin said.

Another student felt it shouldn't be tied down to one meaning or interpretation.

"Maybe it symbolizes the U of A, in that it can mean a lot of things to a lot of people," pre-business freshman Adam Wissing said.

While these are all good guesses, according to the UA Web site, the tall figure is an abstract dove and the mural has great significance with the ensuing war on Iraq, because it symbolizes "the turmoil and disillusionment of war and the desire for peace."

No matter how far off students' interpretations might be, the mural and other sculptures around campus can still

be enjoyed.

"I really love it. I think it's neat to have things like this scattered around campus," Rosburg said.

Front Row Center

What's with those green chairs by the art building? And are we supposed to sit in them?

"Before that was put up, there was nothing in that space, there were just rocks," said Pat Bjorhovde, senior director of development for fine arts. "The dean of fine arts felt like there needed to be an aesthetic space there. It was his vision to have that there with trees and places to sit."

Created by well-known sculptor Barbara Grygutis and dedicated in 1999, the bronze chairs may not be very comfortable, but the atmosphere creates a much more pleasant space for relaxing and conversing with friends.

Girl With Doves

Naked women with birds always make great subjects for sculptures.

The one in front of the ILC does not disappoint.

The meaning behind the sculpture by David Wynne, however, mystifies most students.

"I don't really know; she has really big feet. It's kind of weird because she's in front of the library. Maybe it means freedom," said pre-nursing freshman Maggie Blandin.

Undecided freshman Will Knaust also did not know what it was supposed to signify.

"Naked woman playing with doves, it's interesting. I'm not sure about the meaning, but I think if we eliminated some of these sculptures, I don't think tuition would have to be raised," he said.

Since students have their own interpretations, Novak also a landscape architect with Campus and Facilities Planning doesn't believe it's important to know the exact meaning.

"I think a lot of the purpose of public art is to get people to think and react to something differently. Probably the most unsuccessful piece of public art is one that doesn't generate any discussion," he said.

Novak also thinks it's fine if students don't like every piece.

"Some people think that various pieces are great and wonderful and beautiful, and other people look at the same pieces and don't get it or don't like it or don't think it's appropriate," he said. "(The art) is meant to enliven and enrich the daily experience on campus for everyone."


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