Before I begin the discussion, welcome to the Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA and to a sculpture called “Chesapeake” by Woods Davy. It is part of Franklin & Marshall College’s Phillips Museum of Art Outdoor Sculpture Tour on their campus…
Of the sculptures in the tour, I chose to highlight one called “Chesapeake.” It was built in 1985 by Woods Davy. It is constructed of steel and stone. The Sculpture sits near a few of the intersections that are commonly travelled on campus and within view of the Student Center outdoor seating, a dormitory building, a Children’s Park, and two of the classroom buildings. I estimate it is about 15’ high at its tallest point and approximately 30’ across and 15’ in width. The steel beams look rusted and have various stones that sit both in what seems would be natural positions – laying flat and others are very purposely placed vertically. Most of the rocks are the same material – what I think is some type of sandstone. Only two are granite. It isn’t symetrical, though there is a very linear look to it. The contrast of the beams and rounded stones make it interesting to look at and I was drawn to walk around it, and looking at it from different angles. After reading the Artist’s Description (below), I found it odd that the stones were from the Pacific Ocean, yet the sculpture was titled “Chesapeake,” a Bay found here on the East Coast.
THE ARTIST’S THOUGHTS
Taken from the Franklin and Marshall Sculpture Trail Description:
“Los Angeles-based artist, Woods Davy describes his work in the following manner: ‘I am intrigued by the idea of creating a peaceful balance between the opposites—the hard, man- made metal and the soft, organic rocks. The work reflects opposites in my own personality.’ Chesapeake provides contrast through the linear form of the acid-treated steel beams and the smooth surface of the large stones that were taken from the Pacific Ocean.”
THE IMPACT OF THE SCULPTURE PRESENTATION DESIGN
The Sculpture Tour is a series of 15 sculptures that can be viewed from the paths on the Campus. It can easily be walked and is also accessible to wheelchairs. The sculptures are placed within an area of approximately 3 blocks.
The presentation design for most of the sculptures on the Tour is very similar to this one. A small copper plaque with the name of the piece, the artist, and maybe one other thing such as who donated it or a historical significance. The small plaques are in the concrete bases and to be honest, I felt a little odd walking up to read them if not near the sidewalk. There are very clear walkways and paths on campus to direct traffic flow. Walking closer to the sculpture on the grass to read the plaque felt a bit intrusive.
I’d imagine this collection offers some challenges to the curator as it is exposed to the elements year-round (materials must be durable). The amount of people who stop to look at them may also vary with the season (more common in spring and fall when temperatures are less extreme). They are probably more open to vandalism as well since they are not locked in a building (though there may have been cameras – I didn’t look).
“Chesapeake” is large enough to be seen from all of the buildings I mentioned earlier and presents a different view based on where you stand. It is also open to sunlight for a major part of the day casting a series of interesting shadow patterns along the ground. I’m sure it offers a good conversation starter to those sitting at the Student Center nearby.
The development of technology and its implementation has really added to this Tour since its original installation in 1985. At one time, he viewer probably had to visit the museum (find it and arrive at a time they were open) to pick up a pamphlet to learn more about each piece. Digital integration also offers solutions to help make the information more accessible. Now the Tour is available online with a photo, description, and even map (though I can’t find the link now), so as you’re walking, you can look at your mobile device to read more about them or probably use a mobile application to read the PDF aloud to you. It also helps alleviate the awkwardness of walking on the grass to read the plaque as well.
Overall, I think this is a beautiful and complete Museum Design. The only thing that could be better is if there were some way to offer more information at the sculpture itself in case a person can’t get to the museum or does not know about the things available on the website. It would also be great if they could install a QR code for a person to scan so they don’t have to search for the website. This is a newer design concept, so the original curator really isn’t at fault for not including it to begin with.