The sculptures of the Arboretum also testify to the value of public art
By CORALIE LOON —- [email protected]
Last winter term, students in ART 151 (Intermediate Sculpture), led by instructor Robin Hill, were asked to create public sculptures answering the question: What interests you? For a few weeks, the Arboretum became an outdoor gallery where outsiders could witness a vast visual collage of student experiences.
One of the largest pieces was “Harbinger,” a 4’x4’x9′ acorn created by Kathleen Mackey, a third-year studio art student and transfer student at Sacramento City College. Mackey was inspired to create the giant acorn after walking around the grove of redwoods and discovering that they would eventually be replaced by oak trees.
“I was so disappointed to see it go away, and I kind of went through a feeling of grief,” Mackey said. “I’ve started thinking about grief and how close it is lately; it feels like everyone has had a loss lately. I wanted a piece that was sort of a commentary on that, that gave people the space to think about what they have right now.
For Mackey, the acorn’s physical build was cathartic of his inability to create large pieces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having the freedom to go big and integrate art with nature was also something that characterized the sculptures of other artists.
Kimiko Young, a double major of Spanish and fourth-grade education/art, created “Invisible Pain,” a sculpture of an oversized hand strapped to a hollow tree stump. The hand, pierced with sharp nails and bits of wire, powerfully captures Young’s experience with peripheral neuropathy (PN), which she describes as nerve damage in the hands and feet that can spread to others. parts of the body.
For Young, this project was about making the invisible visible.
“I wanted to give a visual representation of what my pain with PN looks like to people who don’t feel it and can’t see it,” Young said, “because I have these symptoms like numbness, tingling, burning, pinching, stabbing and tightness, and none of it is visual.
Young’s goal of shining a light on invisible disabilities was also shared by artist “eeuphomia” (@eeuphomia on Instagram), a third-year art major. Their play, “Picnic Day,” featured two ghosts having a picnic of monster-like fruit with oversized eyes and teeth.
“My art focuses on trauma,” said euphomia. “I thought I could talk about eating disorders, just because it’s taboo, and it’s a funny way to present it because everyone goes there to have a snack or hang out.”
For this piece and others like it, being in a public place like the Arboretum is essential to conveying a message about invisible pain.
“Having it in a public space, I feel like it reaches more people just because pedestrians are walking around in it,” euphomia said.
Mackey also reflected on the value of public art.
“I think the wonder people feel when they don’t expect to be confronted with art can be something really special,” Mackey said. This “wonder” can make the art even more memorable or meaningful, as it seems to seek out the viewer rather than the other way around.
One piece that confronts the viewer in this way is “Need Balance, Please Advise” by Marissa Brooks, a third-year molecular and medical microbiology student and transfer student. Brooks, who views life balance as an area of struggle, said her inspiration comes from not struggling alone.
“There have to be more people, especially when they come to the Arboretum. A lot of people are looking for a break,” Brooks said.
His project, consisting of a chair and desk covered with small toys, books and a poignantly placed scale, invites the viewer to sit down and write in a journal, answering the question: What do you have on your plate?
For Brooks, the interactive aspect was the best part.
“There’s a story in there about someone’s battle with cancer, and even just someone wrote ‘I miss you daddy.’ I didn’t expect it to be so connected,” Brooks said. “It’s fun to be on a campus as big as Davis and to be in these classrooms, and some of them 300 people, but also feeling so disconnected from everyone else, so it really gave them a space to come together.
For a few weeks, this collection of sculptures made by students did just that. The coins were removed from the Arboretum on March 8, but photos and discussion of the coins can be found on Instagram under the hashtag #ucdart151winter22.
Written by: Coralie Loon — [email protected]