The snow, sleet, and rain that was deposited on Brunswick yesterday left a thin veneer of ice over unlucky bikes chained to outdoor racks, sidewalks, and the thousands of small saplings in the temporary outdoor art installation, Simple Pleasures, currently gracing the quad next to Searles, along with everything else left exposed to the elements. The lights which have highlighted the giant sculpture at night for the last few months showed a new glitter on the set of three cylindrical structures, created in early fall by visiting artist Patrick Dougherty, using only small clippers and no string or wire.
The piece opened on September 28, and has been causing constant comment ever since, most of it appreciative. The structures are hollow and the spaces inside them are, for lack of a better word, cool. Curators at the Walker Art Museum have been pursuing Dougherty for several years, and after all the effort, some students were surprised to hear just how temporary the installation was intended to be: Dougherty and the Museum expected the piece to be disassembled by the end of this semester.
An all-students email made the rounds recently, drumming up support for a petition to keep the sculptures up much longer, well into the spring semester. The petition succeeded in swaying Museum curators and President Mills into extending the life of the sculptures through the spring. (Read the Orient story here.)
This effort is well-intentioned but misplaced, and should not deter Dougherty
from doing what he wants to do with his work. Art is not public property
but personal expression; art designed to be public property usually ends
up being boringly acceptable to everyone but notable to no one, plunked
awkwardly in public parks and outside public libraries. It's true that
Dougherty relied on the assistance of many Bowdoin students for his artwork,
and a democratic approach to determining what the quad looks like has
appeal. But Dougherty builds these objects for a living, and in the end,
it's not up to his audiences to determine what happens to the sculptures,
only to appreciate them while they remain. The 'leave no trace' mantra
of environmentalists applies here too: take only pictures, leave only