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Sculpture incorporates daily objects, invites student interaction

The sculpture "Circle Dance" by Thomas Friedman made its debut on the grassy area of the Walk between Angell and Waterman streets following a week-long installation process.

The sculpture, inspired by Henri Matisse's painting, La Danse, depicts the motion of 11 life-sized human figures holding hands in a circle. The cast is made of shiny stainless steel meant to emulate the pans used by Friedman in his original creation. The sculpture weighs 3,200 pounds and is 22 feet in diameter, according to a University press release.

At first glance the sculpture seems "much simpler" than Friedman's other works, said Ian Russell, curator for the Bell Gallery, but it is consistent with his style of creating art from everyday materials. He added that the life-size human scale of the work is meant to be very approachable, and he anticipates that students will play with it, perhaps adorning it with "woolly hats" in the cold winter months to come.

The stainless steel sculpture was cast from the original in a foundry on Long Island before it was brought to campus Monday morning, said Jo-Ann Conklin, director of the David Winton Bell Gallery. Conklin, along with members of the Public Art Committee, was on site to decide how to orient the statue before it was permanently installed.

During the installation process, workers secured the sculpture in place by inserting rods from the feet of the figures into concrete pillars under the ground. The sculpture was protected by a fence while the cement was curing.

"It is really exciting to see it in person for the first time," Conklin said. "I like being able to see the material. It's made from aluminum roasting pans and you're able to see the maker's names, the concentric circles. I think it fits well."

Russell oversaw the installation, making sure the visions of the artist and the Public Art Committee became a reality. His responsibility was to "ensure that, in as much as possible, we address technicalities but do not undermine the artist," Russell said, describing the process thus far as "smooth." 

"I really enjoy the piece," Russell said. "From afar, it really does echo Matisse's La Danse, but from closer you can see that it reflects the roasting tins and everyday materials," he noted. 

The statue's central location on the Walk receives regular foot traffic from the student population, enabling it to become a place for cultural expression, Russell said.

Student passersby had mixed opinions of the sculpture.  

"As an art piece I like it," said Jason Kirschner '13.  He said he wasn't sure how the sculpture fit into the design scheme of the University but thought he "could grow to like it more by the end of the year."

The sculpture "seems to defy anatomy and physics, which is odd," said Paolo Burkley '16, adding that the sculpture seems unnatural.

"I think it's cool," said Ayanda Collins '16. "I hope no one vandalizes it."


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