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Life is long, art short

In contrast to much of the landscaping going on around campus these days (see "Chicago Journal," page 13), spring's most eye-catching project was, from the beginning, only temporary. Appearing on the morning of June 5, just above the tree line of the main quadrangle, was a set of "sculpted panels of illuminated white spandex." The press-release phrase may not have been particularly felicitous but the effect of the sculpture-recalling flocks of airborne mushroom caps or peaked pavilions or preternaturally white sheets hung out to dry-was felicitous indeed.

PHOTO:  Upward motion on the Main Quadrangle

Together the spandex panels formed a piece titled Illuminated Vortexes. Created by Simon Miller, AB'01, as a farewell to the campus, it was designed to provide a suitable setting for a post-Convocation champagne toast. The press release announcing its installation also announced that it would be taken down early in the week after the College's graduation ceremonies.

Illuminated Vortexes was not the first piece of quadrangle art by Miller, a General Studies in the Humanities concentrator from Elko, Nevada. Last spring he was the lead artist on another campus installation, Extended Triangles Reflecting. That Plexiglass piece stretched along the sidewalk outside Cobb Hall, and Miller called it a work that both reflected and reshaped "the pre-existing flow of motion" around the University's oldest building, "compromising itself with the people who own the space." Miller also termed the piece "Gothic." (You can judge for yourself, in color, here).

No matter what passers-by thought of its artistic virtues and ingenuity, Extended Triangles Reflecting was earthbound, something one had to walk around, look down at. Illuminated Vortexes floated, forcing viewers to lift their gaze. As a result, it was an immediate upper, like seeing storybook clouds in a robin's egg sky.

Convocation came and went, champagne was uncorked and consumed, the weather stayed sunny and cool. And still the sculpture floated above the trees in the quadrangle's northwest corner. At night the light atop each vortex gleamed softly and the effect was of a school of sailboats moored in a small, safe inlet.

Then a big storm blew in. The next morning the sculpture remained aloft but several of its ivory panels were off-kilter, and suddenly the thing looked like nothing so much as a giant set of adolescent teeth fitted with braces. What was needed was an equally giant orthodontist to adjust the "bands" of the apparatus-the ropes and pulleys that anchored it to the trees. But no orthodontist appeared, and it was plain that the sculpture's days were numbered. A few mornings later a work crew appeared. Within an hour the panels were lying on the grass, offering a temporary play space for birds and squirrels. The next day Illuminated Vortexes had vanished.

In an annual competition sponsored by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the Magazine's February/01 issue, which featured several articles on the theme "Books"-including English professor Jim Chandler's "The Battle of THE Books"-won a Bronze medal in the "Special Issues" category.

For that issue, intern Bora Chang, AB'01, interviewed winners of the College's Brooker Prize for book collecting about their current collections. In her year at the Magazine, Bora, an English language & literature concentrator from Cresskill, New Jersey, wrote for almost every department. Now she has moved back east to work as an editorial assistant with Kaplan in New York City. We'll miss her.-M.R.Y.

  AUGUST 2001

  > > Volume 93, Number 6

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The iron taxman cometh
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Street arts
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Letter by letter

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