October 26, 2006

Students Share Views on Sculpture

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Often referred to as “the wigwams across from Collegetown Bagels,” Patrick Dougherty’s arboreal art installation has students talking. And students seem to be of mixed opinion.

The Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA) commissioned Dougherty to create the installation, which he titled “Half a Dozen of the Other.” He is the first of five artists to participate in the CCA’s “5 Years/5 Contemporary Installations.”

The CCA chose Dougherty for his all-natural materials and engaging production technique. Dougherty and assistants from Cornell and Ithaca College created the sculptures using hundreds of tree samplings and branches over a period of three weeks. It is located in the plaza between the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts and Sheldon Court.

However, student reactions have ranged from loving the installation to despising it. Dana Meepos ’07 said, “I think it’s amazing. The construction workers were really nice — they let me put a stick in and they kept me updated. It is very pleasant to walk by — very ‘Sleepy Hollow.’”

On the other hand, Melanie Gudesblatt ’09 said, “It’s really modern and not in a good way. It makes the building look like a gnarled forest. I can’t imagine it’s nice to look at when you look out your window. As a passerby, it’s not nice to look at. It’s just bad for everyone.”

As for the students who live in Sheldon Court, many seem to be of negative opinion. Sidharth Chatterjee ’08 complained about the amount of space the installation has taken away: “I liked the empty space before. It was open and much nicer. They should take it out.”

A few students reported feeling disappointed by the final product. Eric Segreti ’09 said that he had seen pictures of other projects completed by the artist and did not believe the art outside Sheldon Court lived up to Dougherty’s other pieces.

Danielle LaFrance ’08, a residential advisor at Sheldon Court, said, “I think it’s really artistic and good, but at the same time it’s kind of dark. It is not really uplifting when you look at it.” LaFrance also mentioned that she sometimes feels uncomfortable walking past them at night: “It’d definitely be pretty easy to hide in there.”

Meepos mentioned that the artwork is more entertaining if students walk inside of the sculptures. However, rumors have been circulating about couples using the sculptures as a make-out location and intoxicated students using the sculptures as a toilet. In fact, many students living at Sheldon Court complained about an unpleasant smell.

Still, there are students who appreciate the installation for its artistic side. Former art major Sierra Stewart ’09 said, “Dougherty was successful in transforming a forgotten public space into the site of an enchanting sensory experience. Whether students extracted any ‘deeper meaning’ from his work is questionable, but the visual interest it generated during its installment and the number of people it stopped in their tracks certainly says something about its ability to open our eyes a little wider to the world around us.”

Students still have time to form their opinions as the installation is scheduled to remain in place for one year.