Franklin & Marshall College’s Sculpture Tour

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…

Chesapeake Plaque Sculpture in front of the Student Center facing South Chesapeake facing west Chesapeake facing east Pacific Ocean stone Pacific Ocean stone Pacific Ocean Stone Pacific Ocean stone Chesapeake, facing north Looking north from the sculpture

THE SCULPTURE

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.

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11 thoughts on “Franklin & Marshall College’s Sculpture Tour

  1. This is one of the few designs in museums that provides you with an instant connect to the artifact yet a bit complex to look at. I feel this is a right balance for displaying a relic that has such great deal of importance. The museum designer has chosen the right place to display this piece making it an unmissable moment for the viewers. Like artist Woods Davy says, it does display the contrast in character by emancipating our inner thoughts.

    However, I felt this piece of art could have some supporting visual aid to provide the viewers its historic importance. For an artistic piece such as this one, the designer could have thought about some electronic touch screen 3D projection right in front the piece that allows viewers to navigate and read about its importance. Also, considering the stones are mounted on steel planes, raising a glass chamber would probably protect the metal from rusting. In doing so, a viewer could also be allowed to look around, touch and feel at ease inside the chamber.

    • Great points! I had’t even considered that most people only have a moment to look at it since they’re often on their way to classes. I also liked your input about it being unmissable. There are a few other pieces on the Tour that are smaller and I almost walked right by them. This one did catch attention with its size and design.

  2. I don’t visit many museums or art galleries but this piece of work definitely drew my attention. Like you said I really like the steel beams and natural stone combination. It is very pleasing to look at. I also imagine that the shadows would be very interesting to watch throughout the day. I can only begin to wonder at how many different shapes and angles you could see. I personally would find the shadows produced by this piece to be just as impressive as the piece itself.

    I also find it frustrating when there is little information provided on a piece of work. That or the description itself is written very small and tells the viewer little to nothing about this piece. Depending on the museum you go to you can find well written and visible descriptions but those seem few and far between. It would seem beneficial to a museum if it were to add a better description as it would help the viewer better understand the piece. I could also understand why the museum may wish not to do so given the type of piece as the lack of knowledge could provide a sense of mystery about it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! I enjoyed your last few points. Having the information there would be nice, but it both brings an understanding about the Artist’s vision and takes away any mystery about it. Looking at it, there is no way I would have guessed it was called Chesapeake or that that those stones were from the Pacific. While it was interesting info, it definitely influenced my impression and I may have imagined a completely different interpretation.

  3. One thing that always drives me INSANE about art museums is the need to explain the artist’s vision beyond a few simple sentences. Too often, people want explanations for everything. This sense of a person not being able to connect to a piece of art due to them wanting a hyperreal experience with the piece ruins the very nature of why art is so original and yet, divisive. While I appreciate the need to provide people an overabundance of information regarding this particular piece, I don’t understand the need to have something like this explained in a way that would be akin to a history lesson. It’s a giant metal construct with stones on it….just take it in and make you own story. After you’ve processed your own interpretation, then go and see what the artist was trying to convey. Or not, sometimes that works best!

    • Thanks for the response! Great idea. I remember watching a discussion about music videos once and a musician said that the music video had completely changed how people interpret music because it places an image in their head – the Artist’s vision vs what they would have come up with themselves. Similar concept here. I like your idea about standing back and coming up with your own thoughts and THEN reading about the piece. Best of both worlds!

  4. Well yes this is definitely a museum piece…The example that you showed in your pictures allow me to view many aspects of the project, which contain stones for sure. I like the way the designer set up the project and of course the location of it! The reason at time is that it is showing the actual thought of the project! By use of metal structure and stones set upon them, it shows a unique point of view of designer’s thought in relationship to the stones and the metal structure. On the other hand, you mentioned shadows casts during different times of a day, I think this is definitely a good point of view on this piece too!
    On the other hand, for information related to this project, I think you mentioned in your post that we can browse information online about the stone project and the museum of course, so I think this piece at least has some interactive value at this time! Not too much involved with computer technologies, but involving something that I think is enough in terms of information, but not too much in terms of its originality.

    • Thanks for your response! It is nice to have a balance of options to learn about the piece as you said. I’ve really grown to appreciate it more as I’ve thought about it for the interesting composition and views it creates throughout the day and year. I love that it’s in a spot where people can look at it often and even have discussions while looking at it from the Student Center seating.

  5. “A peaceful balance between opposites”, as Davy describes the contrast in the structural material used in the art, which incidentally is the subject of the art itself, is certainly what comes across from this piece. And kudos on the selection of the cover image, Kerri. It draws the eye, and is perhaps the illustration that best encapsulates the art installation.

    Stones on a bench. It sounds simplistic but really comes across as much more complex, quite like the visuals themselves. The beauty of the piece lies perhaps in that it changes with the time of the day, and with the seasons as well. As rich in color as it looks in the images here, I can quite easily picture the flat whiteness of the snow all around it, where the stones would fade out a little, leaving only the metal to relieve the starkness of the structure. The piece contrasts with itself, the winter appearance radically different from the summer one, I’m sure.

    PS: I find it entertaining that the stones are from the Pacific, i.e. the West Coast, and yet the artwork resides in the East.

  6. Dev, thanks for your input and the compliment on the cover image! I posted many photos and various views because it really deserves examination from different angles (even just the 4 sides look so different). Great idea about going back to look at it during the winter! Field trip for me in January!

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