A Vision for SculptureGAMBIER, Ohio (March 17, 2010) The new public-art sculpture by Barry Gunderson comes complete with abstracted thought bubbles, all but inviting pensive observers to fill in the blanks.
Gunderson, professor of art, has won a $90,000 Ohio Percent for Art program commission for "Eye to Eye" on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The piece will be part of a Sculpture Walk along the University Esplanade and will be installed outside Kent Hall, home of the Department of Psychology and the subject of a recent renovation.
The Sculpture Walk is "something to be applauded," Gunderson said. This is his tenth public-art commission and the fourth under the Ohio Percent for Art program that supports public art with 1 percent of the total appropriation for state-funded construction projects that exceed $4 million.
"Eye to Eye" shapes up as two heads gazing into each other's eyes. That "state of deep observation" is appropriate for the setting outside the psychology building, Gunderson said. The welded-aluminum heads will stand ten feet, topped by thought bubbles painted white. "As there is a good deal of observing and thinking going on here, these (thought bubbles) are a necessity," he said. "Perhaps they also offer a bit of whimsy, a consistent characteristic of my work."
Kent State is this year adding a series of sculptures along the Esplanade, a pedestrian and bike path that may eventually link the campus to downtown Kent. "Eye to Eye" was among three pieces selected through a competition that attracted about sixty proposals from Ohio artists that were judged by a committee including faculty and staff, members of the Kent community, and artists representing the northeast Ohio arts community.
The selection committee was taken by Gunderson's concept, "a response to what goes on in the human mind," said Beth Ruffing, assistant director of capital design and construction in the Office of the University Architect at Kent State.
Ken Emerick, director of the Percent for Art Program at the Ohio Arts Council, said Kent's Sculpture Walk is the product of a unique vision and the selection process was very competitive. The Gunderson piece fits with the idea that the best public art "is really going to activate the environment in which it's in." The sculpture is open to interpretation and also fits well with the nearby Franklin Hall, home of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Gunderson is teaming with Mount Vernon Machine & Tool to create the new piece for installation in August.
He fancies public-art projects because the work attracts new and random viewers who might then be encouraged to visit galleries and museums. "All of these public-art projects are putting art in places that are not expected," he said. "It's actually quite exciting," he said, when he encounters observers who find his sculptures in public places.