Statues have myriad backgrounds

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    By RYAN RAUZON

    Aside from massive amounts of heavy machinery, construction sites littered with metal scaffolding, and abnormally large piles of dirt, the BYU campus also carries with it a unique mix of distinguished artwork, especially sculptures.

    Many of those sculptures’ histories are provided in a pamphlet entitled, “A Walking Tour of Selected Works of Art on the Brigham Young University Campus.” It says that the “art on our campus … demonstrates our rich history of excellence and enduring faith,” and that it “communicates the passion of Latter-day Saints for our God, for knowledge and for truth.”

    Brian Christiansen, assistant professor in the Visual Arts Department, said BYU is unique in the sculptures it displays around campus.

    “We really have quality artwork at our University,” Christiansen said. “Some of the pieces, especially around the new Art Museum, are of critical acclaim.”

    One of those pieces, Rueben Nakian’s “Juno,” which sits in front of the Art Museum, is not only aesthetically important but professionally respected

    “Nakian’s contribution to modern art is significant,” Christiansen said. “That we have his piece in front of the museum says a lot of the artistic integrity we carry here.”

    Perhaps the University’s most familiar piece is the bronze casting of the Massasoit sculpture on the west side of the library.

    The Massasoit sculpture was created by Cyrus Dallin in 1921 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the pilgrims’ landing in the New World. The original sculpture was erected in Plymouth, Mass., but Dallin gave the plaster figure to the State of Utah where it was displayed in the State Capitol Building for several years. It now sits in the gardens in front of the capitol.

    The plaster replica was then given to BYU, who cast its own bronze copy, placing it on the third floor of the Harris Fine Arts Center. It was later moved to the west side of the library, where it stands today.

    Many of the sculptures around campus have changed locations through the years, especially with burgeoning construction projects taking up more and more space.

    The “Tree of Wisdom” by retired professor Frank Nackos used to stand in the quad, but it was moved to the south side of the Kimball Tower during construction. In fact, the “Tree” was artistically altered by structural engineers who worried about its ability to withstand an earthquake. Instead of each division of the tree standing independent of one another, they now branish a bar through the base to provide structural support.

    Other sculptures around campus include Mahonri Young’s depiction of his grandfather, Brigham Young. It now stands on the south side of the Abraham Smoot Building.

    Dennis Smith’s sculpture of a small family stands in between the Kimball Tower and Smith Family Living Center. Christiansen says his figurative work explores the joys of family experience.

    Aside from sculptures around campus, the Art Museum displays several prominent pieces in its Day Ord Sculpture Garden on the south side of the museum.

    Herman du Toit, the audience development coordinator for the museum, said the garden is still in its formative stages.

    “We will continually update the garden,” du Toit said. “It is an on-going project for us. We will continually add new pieces and maintain the ones we already have.”

    Students, faculty or community members interested in learning about artwork around campus can contact the Art Museum.

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