My sculpture professor, Harry Roseman, sat us down and said he wanted us to make "two figures (or more) in a (campus) space that change the space."
The day after hearing the prompt I took some slow walks through some campus buildings. I had recently finished a massive and exhausting sculpture (built mostly in cold driving rain) out in the forest on the Vassar Farm that not many people ended up seeing, and it was getting colder out, so I knew I wanted to make my next sculpture inside. I had a feeling I wanted it the work to embody that blissful warming of the body that occurs when I walk into a home warmed by a glowing fireplace. I walked through the library, following the original circulation, my 21st century frame moving tightly through the 20th century stone doorways. The architecture was comfortable, close, and snug. The warm stone volumes were hazily illuminated by glowing skylights and the empty niches on the second floor recalled empty fireplaces. I had a distant feeling that I could highlight the human quality of this space where most students retreat into their mind.
Later, back in my studio, I brainstormed about bringing figures to these niches. Historically, sculptures do belong there, but I found so many other reasons to activate them. Every other shape cut into the stone facade of this room (skylights, windows, the massive stained glass) emitted light so I settled on a light-box.
Thinking of the nearby stained glass, I turned off my studio light and shone a very bright flashlight into my flesh, holding it tight against my hand and it glowed a beautiful red-orange. The figurative scale and shape of these spaces called to be populated so I decided on glowing, red drawings of humans reminiscent of flames. I thought about the figurative quality of the room. The ceiling beams recall ribs and the window mullions and iron detailing of the banisters look like webs of veins and arteries. This brought me to anatomical drawings. I sketched out a muscle-red figure on a small piece of frosted acrylic and held it up to the fluorescent bulbs on the ceiling of my studio.
I used plywood to construct the boxes, in which I wired four fluorescent light tubes each. Then I screwed a plexiglass face over this. Affixed to this plexi with industrial adhesives and acryclic glazes is a collage of colored light gels (usually used in theatre to add colors to stage lighting) which I had ordered online. This transparent collage was based on a digital Photoshop collage of scans from a huge color-illustrated volume of surgical anatomical etchings from the 1820's by Jean-Marc Bourgery.
In a programmatically and atmospherically intellectual space, where a stained glass mural goads students to keep at their studies, these glowing anatomical collages remind the overworked student to remember her body. Once they acknowledge their corporeality, they hopefully stretch out sore typing fingers, take a little walk to refresh their blood flow, or reconsider that all-nighter.