Contrary to campus rumors and speculation, the new structures visible on Claremont McKenna College’s campus aren’t bike racks or scrap material — they’re works of art.
The sculptures, which were installed outside Collins Dining Hall the week of Jan. 13, are the works of Brooklyn-based artist Carol Bove, according to a CMC press release. The art was officially unveiled Jan. 30 when protective fencing was removed from the area.
“Four Loops” and “The Enigma of Pleasure” were created especially for CMC in 2019, while “Cretaceous” and “Lingam” were created in 2014 and 2015, respectively. According to the release, the latter two pieces have previously been on display in New York as well as Leeds, England.
All four pieces were made using a combination of natural and synthetic materials, including scrap metal, ancient petrified wood and stainless steel pipes. “Four Loops,” in particular, was bent into shape by several tons of hydraulic pressure and polished to give a “mirror-reflective surface,” the release said.
Christopher Walker CM ’69, a CMC trustee and chair of the school’s public art committee, funded the four new sculptures on CMC’s campus, the release said. He has previously donated and loaned several other pieces to CMC.
“There will be thousands of students who will see them. They will not be tucked away in someone’s yard,” Walker said in a later press release.
The artwork almost immediately lit up social media, where several students posted memes poking fun at the art.
In a video posted to a 5C meme group, “Meme Queens of the 5cs,” Ava Sealander SC ’22 sings “Mama,” to the tune of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They pan over “Four Loops” and sing “oo-oo-oo-ooh,” cracking a joke about the sculpture’s shape.
“The loop sculpture is by far my favorite because it’s calming, but fun to look at, especially compared to the others in the area if I’m being honest. I think it’s pretty iconic,” Sealander said via message.
Past the jokes, ASCMC President Dina Rosin CM ’20 praised the new sculptures.
“I applaud CMC’s expansion of public art on campus, and as we continue to grow our commitment to the arts, I hope to see more opportunities for students to study and create art,” Rosin said via email.
Other students, however, were slightly skeptical.
“I don’t even know what it symbolizes,” said Kenza Fernandez SC ’22, an art major at Scripps College, talking about “Four Loops.”
Fernandez suggested that a plaque with more information about the artist be put up.
“Maybe if we know who the artist is we can Google them and see other pieces that the artist has done or see what the piece symbolizes at least,” she said.
Nicholas Mendez CM ’21 was ambivalent about the sculptures.
“I hated it when the fences were up at the beginning of the semester, but now that they’re gone I like it OK,” he said. “It’s actually starting to grow on me.”
CMC has added six outdoor sculptures and an indoor mural to its public art collection over the past five years, according to the CMC website.
“From the mountain to the sea,” a mural that sits in the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, was acquired by a group of trustees on the CMC Public Art Committee in 2015, according to the CMC website’s page on public art.
“Meet in the Middle,” a sculpture of benches and streetlights located outside Roberts Pavilion, was installed in 2016 by late artist Chris Burden PO ’69, according to the same CMC public art page. Famous works by Burden include the “Urban Light” structure that stands outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In 2017, CMC installed an unnamed, 40-foot stainless steel totem by the late American artist Ellsworth Kelly between Appleby and Phillips halls.
“These sculptures along with other present and future public art loans, gifts and acquisitions throughout the campus are going to be part of the academic life at CMC,” Walker said.
CMC President Hiram Chodosh praised Walker and Bove in the earlier press release.
“Chris Walker’s extraordinary generosity and leadership and Carol Bove’s vision and brilliant creativity join here to put the public arts in the heart of the liberal arts at CMC,” Chodosh said.