As students hurry to their classes at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, they are stopping to take notice of some new outdoor sculptures on the west side of campus. These sculptures are part of the 2016 USM Outdoor Art Exhibition sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters, the Department of Art and Design and Partners for the Arts. The sculptures are the work of artists from across the country and will remain on campus through April 2018.
A committee consisting of a student and faculty and staff members from the College of Arts and Letters selected four pieces from 35 entries from 20 artists. The committee was looking for aesthetic pieces that people will find interesting and thought-provoking, yet durable pieces that can withstand the weather of south Mississippi. The committee votes for the works they find are the best and best fit in the space provided on campus.
“This exhibition is an opportunity for the University, students, faculty and staff to open a dialogue about what public art means to the individual and how art impacts our community,” said Jennifer Torres, professor and interim chair of the Department of Art and Design. “Public art beautifies the campus and allows us to have a conversation about why art is important to the community.”
“It’s All About Electricity” by Richard Herzog is installed behind the Liberal Arts Building. Herzog, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Bowling Green State University and a master’s of fine arts from the University of Georgia, currently lives in Athens, Ga.
“My current work explores botanical forms, the lack of interaction between man and nature, our disconnection from this environment and the ‘artificialization’ of nature, natural spaces and all things living. All a combination of a systematic organization of natural forms possessing a chaotic multi-layered visual effect creating a metaphor of our world, dominated by its rapid pace and over-stimulation,” Herzog explains on his website.
When she’s not in class, meeting with students or grading papers, Dr. Kate Green, a professor in political science, can be found chatting with colleagues and students on the Liberal Arts Building veranda. “I think the sculpture behind the Liberal Arts Building is beautiful and we are trying to figure out what it is. We think it looks like a tree. It’s unique and it’s one of my favorite pieces to ever be on campus,” Greene said.
“Delphinian,” a stainless steel piece by Andrew Light is in front of the Liberal Arts Building. Light is a full time sculptor who has been a guest artist and lecturer at universities throughout the country. He currently maintains an active studio in Lexington, Ky. Light prefers the use of fabricated metals for his work, as they afford a high degree of plasticity and durability for his expressions. He has work currently exhibited throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Better Days” by Nathan Pierce is in front of the International Center. Pierce, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Southeast Missouri State University, is currently featured in four solo gallery exhibitions. He is cofounder of Untitled Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cape Girardeau, Mo. and Beyond the Pedestal Sculpture Park in Hunter Valley Winery. Pierce has also installed several works across the country.
Between Cook and McCain Libraries is “Appalachian Balance Beam” by artist Durant Thompson. He is an associate professor of sculpture in the Department of Art at the University of Mississippi and was formerly an art technician at Southern Miss. The steel, wood and cast iron piece, weighing 2,500 pounds, is an interactive bench and balance beam.
Thompson is a Connecticut native and grew up in Knoxville, Tenn. He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and a master of fine arts degree from Louisiana State University. Thompson’s work has been featured at exhibitions across the region over the past decade.
Students, faculty and members of the community enjoy the sculptures in different ways. Some admire from a distance, some like to touch the art and others enjoy conversing with friends or doing homework while sitting around or even on the pieces.
“I think it is really important for the University to continue supporting public art in the future. Showcasing these sculptures is something that the Department of Art and Design does that benefits the campus. We’re always receiving comments from the campus community about how much they love the artwork.”
The public is invited to visit campus and view these sculptures. For more information, contact the College of Arts and Letters at 601.266.4315, visit us at www.usm.edu or like us on Facebook, “Southern Miss College of Arts and Letters.”