'Work in Progress' pays tribute to artist's life

By Jason Fierstein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Every human being desires to make some lasting contribution to his or her society, whether it be in the tangible forms of art or through more subjective inspirations within a community.

One University of Arizona alumni who graduated in 1975, an actor named Rick Rorke who died of AIDS last year, was never able to fully appreciate his own contribution to humankind; yet, through the financial and creative contributions of friends, family members and fellow students, a new sculpture, titled "Work in Progress," reincarnates life and adds a new flare to the asthetically-impoverished area around the fine arts complex.

Rorke's love and appreciation for the UA's Department of Theater Arts was originally intended to materialize as a pyramid configuration/open-air garden and meditational mecca for all students to appreciate. Rorke was to have funded the piece himself, but his premature death ended this plan.

"Work in Progress" originally had plans to include aquatic elements, but ecological and financial obstructions eliminated those possibilities.

Designer and builder of "Work in Progress," fine arts undergraduate Mark Gray, was awarded $7,500 from donations to create what Rorke had envisioned. Gray incorporated many of Rorke's own ideas into this project, such as bench seating for performing artists to rehearse their lines and a black-and-white checkered floor plan, which is still in the construction stages. Yet, there is no fourth side to the artwork and the benches, painted in black, already have cracks in their concrete bases. Why so many inconsistencies and unattached constructions?

"Work in Progress" is a play on words; it is symbolic for its existential twist. According to Gray, "Everyone's life is a work in progress . you never get to a point in your life when you have said that you are done."

According to Gray's philosophy, though Rorke's physical body had ceased to exist, his spiritual life is still functioning thus the open-ended and incomplete design of the piece.

Student reactions seem to be undecided, as of yet. Many students simply ride their bicycles right by and don't seem to notice the pyramid sculpture.

"I didn't even know it was a sculpture," said music freshman Fernanda Hirata. "I thought it was part of construction already going on outside the Music building."

Another passerby told the Wildcat a different story after having been told of the artwork's meaning.

"I have a friend that's dying of AIDS and a tribute to (Rorke) says a lot about what our society is going through," observed "Erin," a classics sophomore.

Judy Bassnett, assistant dean of fine arts, instigated the drive for the art work's funding after Rorke's original private funding had to go to his skyrocketing medical bills. After Rorke's death, the money for "Work in Progress" started to materialize through financial contributions from friends and family.

"I felt that something had been shared with me that I now had to take responsibility for," said Bassnett.

Read Next Article