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Student Sculptures Satisfy Visual Craving

As the term progresses, Carleton’s landscape is ever changing, and not just in a natural way; sculptures have come and gone around campus, bringing a human-made element to the change of seasons.

Every trimester, Professor Stephen Mahling teaches a sculpture class, and “particularly in spring and fall, students are given permission to place pieces outside.” This term, Sculpture I and II are running at the same time and the weather has been especially nice, so outdoor installations have been frequent and eye-catching.

Recently, Sculpture II students worked to create pieces that use cultural meanings the campus may understand. Jackson Bahn ’16, an artist in the class, said, “essentially, [the assignment] was to examine some norm, whether social or visual, put it into space and then subvert it.”

Bahn’s work, located on the edge of the Bald Spot said, “my piece looked at the bowerbird that builds these ornate nests out of sticks and straw and makes a sort of pathclump out of flower petals, berries and fruits in the effort to attract a mate. So my version has got more of a stereotypical human conception of attracting a mate, with flowers and chocolates, a mixtape and a boombox playing Marvin Gaye…it makes you think about why socially we know that these things mean love or trying to get into someone’s heart.”

The title of the Sculpture II class is “Form and Context,” because Mohring emphasizes in class how site and location of the sculpture (context) are determining parts of a sculpture’s existence.

Bahn said, “I wanted to find a place that would hit you over the head with it’s obviousness and attract as many mates as possible, but also angle the piece to draw people down the path and over to look at it.”

On one level, the piece is an interesting construction and work of art that draws attention, but there is also a further purpose and meaning to its form that informs and provides possible layers of appreciation for a viewer. As students merely pass by, though, that meaning may not be communicated— and that can be okay.

Kiya Golvek ’18 appreciates being able to experience art for its own sake on a daily basis. “With art on campus just being there, whether you are there for it or not, it means that you can just observe it or appreciate it as art, as part of the landscape, rather than it having to have any meaning.”

Other students are glad for the thought allowed by knowing that the sculptures havev intended meaning, but not knowing what it is.

Raelynne Benjamin ’18 remembered an installation earlier in the year outside Boliou of a body on a bench with words spray-painted around it. “You don’t automatically know what the sculptures represent, so I interpret my own meaning. For me, the person on the bench spoke of poverty. It was emotionally intense. I don’t remember the words…but I remember what I took from it.”

Regardless of the meaning, both Golvek and Benjamin appreciate the student work’s presence on campus, and that the sculptures change so frequently. “If you can see it up close and tell what it is, it’s really cool,” Golvek said. “It makes it accessible, not only with the art, but the creator of the art, too.”

This accessibility stands out and gives the campus warmth and visual interest. Especially in otherwise empty or monotonous spaces around the campus, sculptures add a new dimension. “

People on Carleton’s campus crave visual activity, so when it occurs, it’s a great thing.” Mohring said. “In the beginning [when it opened], the Weitz felt very sterile because we hadn’t engaged it, so sculptures helped to make it an environment that feels like humans belong. It changed the aura of the space and allowed students to have some control over their own architecture.”

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