British sculptor Nigel Hall brings his sculptures of interlocking ellipses to the user interface

Sculptor Nigel Hall brought his magnificent elliptical sculptures to America and the University of Iowa with the help of former Tippie College of Business dean Gary Fethke and his wife and professor emeritus Carol Fethke.

Jordan Tovar

An art installation featuring the work of Nigel Hall at the College of Nursing on September 22, 2022.


While Jackson Pollock *Wall* was on tour in London at the Royal Academy in 2016, British sculptor Nigel Hall understood Gary Fethke talk to a student about painting. In front of *Wall*, which is now on display at the Stanley Museum of Art inaugural exhibition, Hall and his famous ellipse sculptures have found their way to the University of Iowa.

Introductions were made and Fethke, the former Dean of UI’s Tippie College of Business, and his wife Carole Fethkeformer economics and marketing professor at Tippie, visited Hall’s gallery – the couple left with a newfound friendship in love with its intricate ellipses.

Related: University of Iowa School of Art and Art History Hosts First Ceramic Invitational Show

An ellipse can be described as a delicate oval that creates a sense of unity and movement for the viewer.

The couple originally donated the sculpture *Gravity | Lightness* in 2019, in collaboration with the Faculty of Nursing. After visiting one of Hall’s galleries in London, Carol said she fell in love with the large, bright pink outdoor sculpture.

Always seeking to give more art to the university, they kept coming back to a mock-up – a small, preliminary model of a sculpture – of Hall’s gold*Natural Pearl*, in shows and exhibitions across the UK They said they just couldn’t pass it up.

After the pair spoke with Hall, the sculptor decided he wanted to recreate the piece on a larger scale, which he said he now realizes was a bit daring.

“It’s 12 and a half feet tall, so it’s pretty big,” Hall said. “It’s made of Corten steel, which is the steel that doesn’t rust, it oxidizes and forms a nice dark leathery skin. It keeps that for quite a long time, if not forever.

On September 23, there will be an official dedication of Hall’s sculpture natural pearl, donated by the Fethkes, in his new home in the courtyard of the Pappajohn Business Building. The event will consist of an interview between Hall and the director of the Stanley Museum of Art, Lauren Lessing, as well as a reception at the BizHub.

The piece comes from a collection of similar sculptures, consisting of all large intertwined ellipses with pearl-related titles. Hall said he liked the idea of ​​a pearl forming from a piece of gravel that goes into an oyster’s shell and collects sediment, piling up and turning into a pearl – the idea from something beautiful into something sturdier.

He worked with ellipses throughout his life, being surrounded every day. Ellipses, he says, are often confused with circles; like the rim of a coffee cup where the viewer very rarely looks at it from top to bottom, but rather from the side.

“From smallest to largest, we live with ellipses, and they’re beautiful to draw and beautiful to make,” Hall said. “For me, it’s beautiful to watch. They have a dynamic, and a life.

Although Hall often welds sculptures himself from materials like wood and bronze, he also has a team to help him make large metal pieces like those featured in *Natural pearl*. Once Hall presented them with an accurate model, along with drawings and measurements, the group got to work.

Shipping and installing the approximately 7,000 pound piece was the hardest part of bringing the sculpt to UI. After bouncing from England to Montreal and finally *Natural Pearl* reached its final location in Iowa.

Throughout the fall, from September 19 to November 30, Hall will showcase several drawings and mock-ups of his work around the user interface in a campus-wide exhibit. The Fethkes believe it’s important to have art on campus because “it makes people think.”

“You look at what artists do and you see the world differently,” Gary Fethke said. “What we try to do is encourage our students, staff and faculty to think beyond themselves, to think of beautiful things.”

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