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Sculpture students create work of art

staff writer

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 13:01

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PROFESSOR RYOICHI SUZUKI AND SEVEN advanced sculpture students created the the installation project “Vertical Experiment.” The project consists of several hundred wooden sticks hanging from panels and is on display in the Chase Fine Arts Building. SAMANTHA BEHL photo

 

 

What do sculptors do when they get together on the weekends? They talk about sculpting, and it was from one of these casual gatherings that Ryoichi Suzuki, assistant professor of sculpture for the Caine College of the Arts, and seven of his advanced sculpture students came up with their idea for an installation project.  

What started out as an idea to create something, turned into a huge project that took almost 320 man hours to create. The installation itself consists of individual four foot by four foot panels suspended from the ceiling, 10 and a half feet off the ground, with 100 individual wooden sticks hanging from each panel. The sticks have been cut to varied lengths, ranging from two to seven feet tall and hung in a progressing pattern — from shortest to tallest — and have been spaced two inches apart.  

The installation has been designed to make full use of the gallery it will hang in, allowing visitors to walk about the piece and experience it from different angles and see how light passes in between the mass of hanging sticks.  

“You get the effect like when you’re driving past a corn field and it changes as you go,” said Myles Howell, a senior majoring in art. 

The piece has been named “Vertical Experiment” because of the unpredictability of the piece as a whole.

“Until we hang all of them we are guessing,” Suzuki said. “We can see, with them individually hanging, but with this design we don’t know until we hang the whole thing if it will work.” 

Every aspect of the piece has been an experiment for Suzuki and his students. At one point, when trying to decide what materials to use, they considered using curled metal shavings. However, wood won out in the end.

“Wood was one our first ideas, because we knew we had wood available,” said Mijka Butts, a senior majoring in art. “But then we wanted to toss up other ideas. So we took a couple of trips to the dump, just to see the variety of materials we could use. But in the end we still just went with the wood.” 

Once they had decided to use wood, they needed to work together on a design. Eventually inspiration came from a similar installation, where an artist used hundreds of yardsticks and hung them in a progressive pattern from the ceiling.  

The building process came with its share of trial and error as well. They started out using a lightweight foam board as their panels to hang the sticks from, but because of the weight of the sticks, the panels would bow from the force pulling down. After that, the artists decided to go with flat squares of plywood, which proved to be much more sturdy.  

Once the panels and sticks were assembled, then came the challenge of how to install and hang them. Originally they had planned to hang them with rope, but after a three-hour testing session decided to use a different method.

“We took four panels in,” Howell said. “We spent three hours trying to hang them level so that they actually matched up — it was a headache. The problem with that was the rope would stretch from the weight, and you would have to tie a knot and hope that the knot would stay where it was tied.”

In the end they decided to install the panels with chain.  

“The whole process has been trial and error, all the way through,” said Suzuki.  

Even with all the headaches and the stress of building the piece, the lessons that Suzuki’s students have learned are ones that he could never teach them in a typical classroom environment.

“It felt like I was an equal part of something,” Butts said. “It was a good, enriching experience.  It helped me be able to see and accept differences in other people as well — not just on an artist’s level but on a people level too.”   

“I want people to walk into the gallery and have a feeling of amazement that this had been done.” said Howell. 

“Vertical Experiment” is scheduled to open on Monday, February 4 and will be open until Friday, February 8 in Gallery 102 in the Chase Fine Arts Building.  

 

– kiel.reid@aggiemail.usu.edu

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