Saturday, January 17, 2009

i saw an odd thing on campus the other day as i was walking along the back side of faner where i often take pictures, trying to catch the shapes & colors of trees against the dull angular gray concrete of the building. my favorite sculpture is back there, a metal frame with a triangular base, coming up to form a kind of pyramid-shaped rack, bound together delicately by welded metal. from this frame hangs heavy rocks in metal baskets that are similarly welded together, delicately, so that the heavy rocks are suspended in space but kind of gradually moving up the pyramid. the sculpture was called "eternal marriage vs. 'til death do us part," and was by a sculptor long forgotten, long ago. to me the rocks were clearly a very heavy burden, carried by an infinitely light and delicate frame, the soul, pointing up toward infinity, but it wasn't clear to me whether the burden would be marriage, or life itself, or perhaps both; what did he/she mean?

well, i got to this sculpture, and it had been vandalized, knocked over; it had been thrown off of its ledge, about three feet high, onto the ground where its rocks were strewn about and the frame, damaged but probably repairable. unfortunately i was unable to pick it up and put it back on its ledge without help. nor did i report it, though i probably should have; it's kind of tucked away, hidden behind some huge evergreens, and could go weeks before anyone even sees it. which brings up the question: who got back there to vandalize it in the first place?

the small town has been scandalized and upset by a number of crimes recently; in one, a bank not five blocks from my house was robbed at gunpoint by two guys on a motorcycle who then sped west, out of town, on the cycle(?)...I don't know the details. In another, somebody broke a window of a class i now teach in every day; we sit there with jagged glass ends distracting me as i teach; this was to haul off some computers. but it didn't occur to me that the vandalizing of the sculpture could have been related to that: maybe the rock that broke the window was taken from the eternal marriage statue?

i've become a keen observer of shapes in space; this is partly a result of carrying a camera around, and imagining how pop-art could distort, saturate, sharpen or contrast any given image. a recent incident with a photo storage going bonkers reminded me of the temporal nature of all art, and all images, but basically, this is a physical world; its colors, shapes, life forms and images compete for our attention and arrange themselves so that we feel calm, balanced and attentive, or jagged, edgy, aggravated. i would hate to see a sculpture hauled away, banished, because of its possible role in a terrible crime. but worse yet; i cringe at the irony: i notice a statue, value it, photograph it, make pop art out of it and wonder about its title- then, it's destroyed, its rocks used to smash my own window? fortunately, i was transferred out of that room on friday, and back up to the lab, home of the infamous fan, a small ally in a concrete-block, technology-nightmare kind of place. it doesn't matter though. in reality even life itself is temporary, fragile, delicate, easily misinterpreted. the cold snap is over, but we didn't seem to have any snow; the winter oozes in the doorways and places where the building can't stop it. and it's even worse at home; our upper story, uninsulated, draws heat out of the rest of the house, giving us uneasy, drafty peace as we eat breakfast. but spring is coming; the sun is shining again, giving a clarity and color to everything, maybe to help me with a sense of perspective, before i take the camera out again.


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