BELLINGHAM – Celebrated nationally, Western Washington University’s Outdoor Sculpture Collection is now available to art lovers in a lavishly illustrated book, “Sculpture in Place – a Campus as Site” (96 pages, WWU and Marquand Books, distributed by University of Washington Press, $29.95).
Author Sarah Clark-Langager, collection curator and Western Gallery director, will give a brief slide presentation and sign the book at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 at Village Books in Fairhaven. Five local photographers, whose work appears in the book, have been invited to join her: Paul Brower, Jon Brunk, Manuel (Rod) del Pozo, Sandra Lucke, Daydre Phillips and Phil Schofield
With 66 full-color photos, “Sculpture in Place” offers – for the first time in print – a look at the entire collection together with observations by each of the 22 noted artists represented in it. In her accompanying text, Clark-Langager offers “a unique perspective” that gives “equal voice to the art historian and the artist.” In personal interviews and passages from articles by and about the artists, Clark-Langager shares “their inspirations and experiences on campus [as well as] their strong opinions on the issue of creating art for the larger public.”
Northwest artist James Fitzgerald, whose fountain sculpture, “Rainforest,” was the first work installed on campus in 1959, posits the “possibility” of large-scale outdoor sculpture. Fellow Northwesterners Fred Bassetti and Norman Warskinske show their architectural roots; Richard Beyers speaks against hierarchy and bureaucracy; and Michael McCafferty shies away from collaborating with design teams while creating his living works.
The book also pays tribute to “the scope of the public and private partnerships” that has made the Western campus one of the most written about and visited outdoor sculpture sites in the Northwest.
For example, through the Virginia Wright Fund, the Seattle art patron and collector commissioned five of the collection’s most significant works including Bruce Nauman’s “Stadium Piece,” which adorns the book’s cover. The fund also presented the university with Anthony Caro’s “India,” Robert Maki’s “Curve/Diagonal” and an untitled Donald Judd work. Mark Di Suvero’s “For
Handel” is sited on the plaza named for Wright in 1999 during Western’s Centennial. The fund also matched a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant to help acquire Richard Serra’s “Wright’s Triangle.”
Nine works, including pieces by John Keppelman and Steve Tibbetts, are private gifts; six were funded by the pace-setting 1959 WWU Art Allowance fund; five were supported by federal grants with matches from public and private sources; and three were totally funded by the state’s half-a-percent for art legislation. In her extensive text on issues involved in developing such a university collection, Clark-Langager notes that Western’s commitment to “incorporate a variety of the best designs in art as well as architecture for this community of living and learning” was well underway before NEA art in public places grants started in 1967 and considerably pre-dated state funding tied to construction projects launched in the mid-70s.
Much of the collection complements or enhances the natural beauty of a campus that overlooks an arm of Puget Sound and the evergreen-clad Cascade Mountains. As the Seattle-based sculptor and Western alumnus Robert Maki (“Curve/Diagonal”) says: “…specific site and contextual information only strengthens my public sculpture projects.”
New York-based artist Nancy Holt, whose “Rock Rings” is one of the most popular works in the collection, recalls: “[The design] came into my mind when I first saw the site – it seemed to be a natural outgrowth of the Northwestern terrain with its colorful mountain rocks and misty green hills,” Holt writes. “…As the mason worked [with her on campus in 1977 and ‘78], ‘Rock Rings’ grew stone by stone out of its site, and massively assumed its position in the landscape.”
Isamu Noguchi’s “Sky Viewing Sculpture,” installed in 1969, also draws inspiration from its surroundings while adding to “[T]he central campus…all of red brick, which has won great praise…an ideal place for study,” as the late artist recalled in 1976. “What was wanted…was something that would clarify the open space while at the same time drawing the eyes of passing students up toward the heavens.”
“Sculpture in Place” is available at quality bookstores throughout the country. Among them are Bellingham’s Village Books (1-800-392-2665 or www.villagebooks.com); the WWU Associated Students Cooperative Bookstore (360-650-3958); University Bookstore, Seattle (1-800-335-7323) or www.bookstore.washington.edu. The book can also be ordered directly from UW Press (1-800-441-4115)or http://www.washington.edu/uwpress.
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