New Sculptures Added to Davidson’s Growing Collection

Recently installed in front of Duke Residence Hall, this sculpture is part of furniture designer Vivian Beer’s series “Anchored Candy.” Photo by Hannah Dugan ’21

By: Emma Brentjens ’21

Staff Writer

The sculptures on Davidson’s campus have become deeply ingrained in our lives. We walk past them everyday, yet many of us know little about them. However, we recognize their presence on campus when they are removed, such as the beloved Waves III outside Chambers, or when new sculptures are installed.

The sculpture program has grown tremendously since its introduction in 1993 with the Auguste Rodin sculpture and the opening of the Visual Arts Center. According to Cort Savage, an art professor and member of the Art Collection Advisory Committee, the goal of the program “has been to build an outdoor sculpture collection on the campus that would be a museum quality collection and would serve as a point of destination for people interested in art.”

Part of the program’s importance is that “it certainly diversifies the landscape,” said Savage. Not only do the sculptures transform the landscape, but they also create spaces. “They become sites where people meet, where people spend time,” he said, “when people are near it, they don’t feel alone and they feel connected to something else.”

One of the two sculptures coming to campus this year has already arrived. The piece is by Vivian Beer, a furniture designer who won the television program Ellen’s Design Challenge [1]. “She is young but getting a lot of attention for her work,” said Lia Newman, an art director and curator on campus. The sculpture, a metallic red bench between the E.H. Little Library and Duke Hall, is part of a series called “Anchored Candy” [2]. Joseph Logan ‘77, the donor, met Beer and “approached us with the idea of doing some sort of commission,” Newman said.

The Art Collection Advisory Committee has been working on this piece for some time. According to Newman, “It’s different than buying [a work that already exists than] to engage in this commission process.” Beer first came to campus “about a year and a half ago,” she said. “She thought about the landscape and the works that currently exist on campus and proposed a couple of ideas for us.”

For Newman, part of what makes this piece special is that as it is a commission, Beer “was able to really stretch and do something new.” The piece is physically connected to the landscape, something Beer has never done before. “That’s pretty exciting to be a venue that can provide an artist with that opportunity,” she explained. Additionally, there is a functional component to the sculpture in that it is a bench. “It’s different than looking at something just from afar,” said Newman.

President Carol Quillen (left) traveled to New York City to celebrate the sculpture series. Photo courtesy of @davidsoncollege Twitter page.

The second new sculpture will come to campus this October. The work by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare will be placed in front of the Wall Academic Center. “He’s a well-respected contemporary artist,” Newman said. The piece is coming to Davidson from Central Park in New York City. The committee was looking for a sculpture specifically for Wall. They “were interested in capturing the interdisciplinary nature of the building and the campus,” said Newman.

The school came about the piece by first contacting Shonibare. “We started talking to him about purchasing a work and the Public Art Fund in New York started talking to him about commissioning something” for a temporary project, Newman stated. Pat Rodgers donated the piece in memory of her husband B.D. Rodgers., a North Carolina State University alum, who always loved and respected Davidson [3].

The piece, called “Wind Sculpture (SG) I”, is part of a series relating to his work “Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle” [4], a commentary on colonization and globalization. Shonibare covers the sail with Dutch wax textiles “that are very much associated with African identity,” Newman explained. In this sense, Shonibare uses the textiles “to talk about transnational identities and colonialism.”

“I think it’s going to be really different for us and we hope that there will be some balance,” Newman iterated of the Shonibare piece. It will be the first sculpture on campus with both color and pattern and “Vivian’s piece is really the first one with color so I’m hoping that they’re going to speak to each other and that they could be a bridge for us to think about other kinds of sculpture and other artists,” she said.

There is no single way in which Davidson acquires its sculptures. “It…happens in different ways,” Newman said. “Sometimes donors approach us with works and sometimes we approach donors.” Occasionally, the pieces are donated directly, like the Jesús Moroles piece donated by Dr. Hugh A. McAllister, Jr. ’61. Donations come often from Davidson alumni.

“Hopefully the people are looking at them and thinking about them and want to know more about them, not just kind of ignoring them,” Newman commented. One sculpture, The Group of Ten by Magdalena Abakanowicz, is a piece that students and the general public do not know much about. “I think sometimes Holocaust memorial gets attached to the work,” said Newman. The artist’s family was impacted by the Holocaust, but she explained that the school does not “consider it a memorial in any way.” To increase student awareness of the sculptures, the Art Department is hosting a full moon sculpture tour on April 30th.

[1] “Ellen’s Design Challenge Season Two: See Vivian Beer’s Designs,” hgtv.com

[2] vivianbeer.com

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=805sYhRPsks&feature=youtu.be

[4] “Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle,” Royal Museums Greenwich.

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