January 20, 2013

'Imperfect' sculpture by University of Maine at Augusta students adorns arboretum

Steel, granite and concrete sculpture, titled "The Imperfection of Man," erected Sunday

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- University of Maine at Augusta art students put their "imperfect" work on display Sunday for all to see at Viles Arboretum.

click image to enlarge

Aaron Dufour, left, replaces the top of a piece of the sculpture that he helped install Sunday with Ben Stoodley, right, and other classmates from the University of Maine at Augusta, at the Viles Arboretum in Augusta.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

People attach a concrete human figure Sunday, while installing a sculpture at the Viles Arboretum in Augusta, which was created by University of Maine at Augusta students.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Their steel, granite and concrete sculpture, "The Imperfection of Man," rose bit by bit, weld by weld, as a cold wind blew, exposing the work students and Professor Robert Katz had put into their multi-faceted piece since last September.

Some of the students had more than just their work exposed as part of the project. The artwork features concrete castings of several of the students' bodies, posed in ways which show that like all of us, they're imperfect.

Even the choice of concrete as a material for the people portrayed in the sculpture, interspersed with steel machines including a massive, moving pendulum and a chariot laden with granite slabs, reflects the pursuit of imperfection in the project.

"The pendulum represents the passage of time," said senior art major Adriana Love, of South China. "The steel, in the machines, is not going anywhere; but the concrete (making up the people) will fade away. It's fragile, like our own mortality."

Inscribed on a granite stone incorporated into the sculpture is the quote that inspired students as they worked, from Ernst Fischer's 1963 book "The Necessity of Art":

"As machines become more and more efficient and perfect, so it will become clear that imperfection is the greatness of man."

Katz said when they first began the project, with funding help from a UMA President's Mini-Grant, he asked each student in his metal sculpture class to bring in an inspiring story or quote. They ultimately settled on Fischer's book and quote, which Katz said had, at its essence, consideration of the place art has in an industrial society -- or, to update the topic, in an increasingly digital age.

"How do we appreciate the role of man now that we're so dependent on technology?" Katz said.

Manchester resident Aimee Forbush, a senior liberal studies major with a minor in art, who is cast in concrete cradling books, said students spent five hours a week of class time working on the sculpture, in addition to anywhere from five to 20 hours a week outside of class.

The artwork joins other sculptures in natural settings at the Viles Arboretum, off Hospital Street, and Forbush said other student works also will be displayed.

Katz said "The Imperfection of Man" eventually will be moved to a permanent home on the UMA campus.

Sunday was the first time all the elements of the piece were assembled, making for some nervous moments.

Architecture student Ben Stoodley wielded a welding torch during the installation, and a medium-sized Kubota tractor was also used to hoist the heavy elements of the piece into place.

Teisha Lohan, a fourth-year art major from Belgrade, said some students who worked on the project plan to come check out the piece, once it's fully assembled, at sunrise.

"It's very emotional, seeing it all put together after you put so much work into it," she said.

Camden Smith, a freshman liberal arts student from Augusta, who worked on designing how the individual pieces would fit together and did some of the welding, said that as the parts were assembled into a whole, the piece turned out even better than he had expected.

Each stone slab incorporated into the artwork is engraved with a date. Each date corresponds with a significant date in the advancement of industry or technology, including: 1775, the invention of the first reliable steam engine; 1844, the invention of the telegraph; 1903, the invention of the airplane; and 1959, the invention of the microchip.

Keith Edwards -- 621-5647

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