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UC's Newest Artwork Placed on Library Square

Date: April 3, 2002
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Colleen Kelley
Archive: Campus News

Forest Devil installation

An introductory sculpture class taught by Pamela Cole was scheduled to work on their first piece of sculpture this morning. Instead they headed outdoors to help install UC's newest piece of public sculpture with artist Kenneth Snelson.

Braving unusually cold spring temperatures with a wind chill of 35 degrees and sunless skies, the DAAP students hoisted, hefted, pulled and prodded to piece together Snelson's "Forest Devil." The sculpture is a study in push and pull with aluminum tubes and steel cables all joined together in a perfect balance of tension and compression. DAAP graduate assistant Pamela Cole was just trying to remember Snelson's name last week in a discussion of this type of artwork. Then this morning, colleague Richard Wearn interrupted class to invite her students to erect the Snelson piece on Library Square outside Zimmer.

Snelson is known as the father of "tensegrity" art. The term is used to describe works of art that show rigidity while parts that form it are separated. Buckminister Fuller originated the word.

Kenneth Snelson

"The tubes are in compression, while the tension members - the wires - are keeping things tight," explained Snelson, looking at a small model of Forest Devil, labeled with numbers like 31JK and 34JL as students helped to sort through cables and tubes with color codes on the end. The end of each cable had a metal piece, or "swage," which fit through a hole in the ends of the tubes. To keep the swage in place and the cable threaded through the holes, the artist and his helpers screwed threaded grommets into the holes. Their tools included a set of rubber fingertips, a ladder, a couple of ropes and a hoist. Assisting on the job were Facilities Management workers Ken Klosterman, Bill Moore and Butch Clark, as well as Len Thomas of the Office of the University Architect and Richard Wearn, adjunct faculty member at DAAP.

"That goes down there. Now we may need to lift this in the air to get this in," said Snelson at a particularly complicated intersection. "I think we need a ladder."

"It's just a great feeling when one of those ends join," exclaimed Cole.

"It's definitely like a puzzle," said Julie Krumpelbeck as she held the miniature model for the piece, which when finished measures 35 feet long, 25 feet wide and 17 feet high.

More work

"It's very interesting," attested Jodi Spilman, a junior, as she pulled the sleeves of a thermal shirt and her coat over her hands to keep warm. Spilman has also helped collect wood for UC's next public sculpture, a piece by Patrick Dougherty that will be installed April 4-19. "It's interesting to see the differences between the two works."

The sculpture was wrapped in plastic to protect the metal from scratches until it was completely assembled. Mats were also placed under the piece during assembly to prevent damage.

Now located on Library Square, the Snelson piece may move to a new location on Zimmer Plaza when the MainStreet construction is completed. Thomas noted that current site, near the Engineering Research Center, was appropriate given the principles of push and pull behind it.

Prior to the installation at UC, Forest Devil had been exhibited in several other places, including Berlin, Chicago and New York City. Snelson first created it in 1975.

Finished piece

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