Centre College begins preparations for new outdoor sculpture
DANVILLE, KY - Centre College has begun the landscaping required for placement of a new outdoor sculpture on campus, a 12,000-pound stone carving by award-winning artist Tom Chapin.
According to Chapin, the piece, which is entitled "The Palace of Memory," is likely to be installed within the next four weeks. The actual work schedule will depend on weather conditions.
The complete work will feature a long (about 80 feet), relatively low mound constructed on a portion of the college lawn near Olin Hall and Doherty Library. The mound will culminate with an intricately carved piece of African red granite. The deep, burnished red of the African granite will contrast with grass and trees.
The art was commissioned by a group of Centre's employees and friends, and the cost is being underwritten by donations.
"Palace of Memory" reflects a new trend in Chapin's work, in which stone carvings are placed outdoors and the surrounding landscape is contoured to become an extension of the work.
Chapin explains that he was inspired and deeply moved by a visit to the Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio, where prehistoric people apparently contoured the land to create an elaborate series of ridges and curves that extend for hundreds of feet. Chapin considers the mound "the greatest piece of early American art still in existence," and he wants to emulate its remarkable use of naturally occurring forms.
The granite portion of the work will have an overall shape that mimics the oblong contours of a scarab beetle, an important symbol in many ancient cultures. Chapin has etched the surface of the granite with subtle designs. The sides and bottom of the stone will bear etchings of important literary and religious quotations, scientific ideas and mathematical formula, representing the many facts and ideas that are part of human collective memory.
When complete, the stone will appear to float a few inches above its concrete footing, giving ambitious viewers a chance to read at least portions of the inscriptions on the bottom.
Chapin has finished etching the top of the stone and will complete the bottom after the stone is flipped next week by a crane provided by Bailey's, a construction company based in Nicholasville. Bailey's will return to campus to make the final placement of the stone on the college lawn.
A New York native and mostly self-taught artist, Chapin is the great-great-grandson of novelist Herman Melville. He began sculpting about 10 years ago and has won several awards, including the Portobello Prize in London, England, and the Jurors Award for Artistic Excellence at the Portland (Maine) Museum of Art. His work is held in collections in England and the United States, and he has been a visiting artist at the University of Western Florida.
Chapin's recent one-man show at Centre showed his technical mastery of stone carving and an expansive knowledge of history and literature, along with a keen wit. One piece, entitled "Blunt Implement," featured a 40-inch piece of green slate carved in the shape of club and engraved with lines that mimicked computer circuitry.
Another work, which utilized a piece of limestone nearly six feet long,
was carved in an undulating shape and had the evocative title "Back
When Dreams Were Memories." Other works were carved in stone ranging
from Italian marble to black granite, with engravings inspired by ancient
pictographs, modern science and the natural world.
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