Outdoor art installation explored

Is it a maze? Is it a fort? Is it finished? Everyone has a different interpretation of the outdoor installation in front of Baum Gallery, but that was the point the artists wanted to convey when the sculpture was created. They wanted the sculpture to be seen as a symbol rather than a structure.

George Dombek, a renowned Arkansas artist, and more than 100 UCA art students collaborated this fall on the temporary sculpture that serves as a visual prompt for creative works.

Dombek?s connection to UCA dates back about 40 years when he enrolled at UCA, then Arkansas State Teachers College. Barbara Satterfield, director of Baum Gallery, brought the idea of displaying an art sculpture to Dombek last year. After planning where to put the exhibit and how the students would be involved, the installation process began. The outdoor installation took about four days to build.

Amber Purdom, a freshman art education major, helped to construct the installation. Purdom said, ?I felt like one of the biggest challenges of the installation was the time constraint. It was difficult trying to get the design together with so many people working on the project.? The students overcame this challenge through smart thinking and teamwork.

According to Dombek, designing and building the sculpture was like a trip where you didn?t know where the next stop would be. ?The sculpture just evolved from the ideas of student workers. We never designed anything on paper, we just went out there and began building without knowing what would come next,? he explained

The outdoor installation is a 60 feet by 60 feet construction of fencing and stone arranged in a series of curved walls. The 20 tons of stone are on loan from Schwartz Stone Company, located in Paris, Ark.

Dombek and the students wanted to construct an artistic piece that viewers could interact with, and they?ve done just that. The art installation has students stopping at the exhibit and wondering what the sculpture stands for and what exactly it?s supposed to be.

Professors at UCA have taken the opportunity to let their students interact with the installation so they can get a better idea of what it stands for.

Lanette Grate, an adjunct writing instructor, had her composition students write a paper titled ?What is Art? after she took them to view the outdoor installation. ?My students were intrigued by the sculpture and not knowing exactly what it stood for,? she said. ?I liked the idea they were able to interact with the art exhibit.?

Dr. Nelle Bedner, assistant professor of speech, took her persuasion students to the outdoor installation to study the visual persuasion of art. Bedner said, ?The sculpture was a good opportunity for the students to study art persuasion and then be able to apply it. The exhibit allowed them to interact with the sculpture and see the persuasive elements.?

As individuals take a journey through the installation they follow the curved walls filled with three colors of limestone. The journey has high and low stoned walls, and throughout its twists and turns, viewers will find small open spaces they can peer through to see different perspectives of the campus.

Satterfield said, ?We want the viewers to move through the sculpture and see it as a journey that is continuing because as we live our perspectives change according to our location in life.?

The elements that make up the outdoor installation are important for their individual representation as well. Each of the elements completes one of the requirements for a successful work of art: variety, repetition, balance, unity, and effective use of positive and negative space. The stone is a variety of colors (brown/chestnut, gray, and red/cherry), the curved walls repeat throughout the structure, the greater number of open lower walls balances the one high-walled semi-enclosure and fencing and similar shapes of the stones provide unity throughout the installation. The openings within the walls help define a variety of positive and negative spaces to contemplate.

Dombek said, ?With the combination of the man-made fencing, the natural stone, and the randomness of the placement of stones, it makes for a superimposing look.?

The outdoor installation, when viewed at different times of day, in different weather or in different seasons, can be seen as a repetitive masterpiece. The outdoor installation will be available for viewing in front of Baum Art Gallery through April 1.

-Anna Lacy