One of the advantages of being on an academic campus is the wide variety of cultural and learning opportunities (many of them for free!). We recently organized a sculpture tour of the outdoor sculptures at the Cantor Center for our residence hall. I highly recommend this tour. Our guide hit just the right level of technical information with the “oh, cool!” factor, balancing the tone for those who have an art background and those (like me) who know next to nothing about art.
Our tour guide walked us through the sculptures, telling stories and providing background as we moved from one sculpture to the next. We started at “Stone River” sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy. He is known for creating ephemeral works of art that are intentionally washed or worn away. The stones of the “Stone River” are placed together without mortar, built from original Stanford limestone recovered from buildings that were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.
We then moved into the Rodin garden where our guide showed us how Rodin reused shapes and molds that he liked, showing us how the leg of one sculpture was duplicated in the leg of another.
Rodin worked in clay, sculpting small models that could be scaled into casts for what we all think of as the traditional bronze sculpture of Rodin. The French government now owns Rodin’s casts and has limited the number of new casts that can be made to a total of 12 for each cast. Stanford has #5 of the “Doors of Hell,” which is a fascinating concept to think about maintaining value.
When Dan asked why some of the body parts were out of scale, our tour guide smiles mysteriously and said, “Hold that thought…we’ll see in a minute.” After examining more similarities and re-used casts on the “Doors of Hell,” we moved inside to review a perfect-to-scale sculpture of a male model, Rodin’s first sculpture. Because he was an unknown name at the time, he was accused of casting a human model, instead of creating the sculpture from scratch. He vowed at that time never to create a perfectly-t0-scale sculpture again.
We moved on to more modern sculptures and one that came into its true essence at Stanford. This outdoor sculpture, one that you can walk through, was meant to sit outside. The iron is meant to oxidize in the elements, creating its unique color and texture. But before coming to live at Stanford, it had been housed inside. The experience of winding through the structure is pleasantly disorienting, only really getting the full picture from above.
So go. Visit the Cantor Center for the Arts and take advantage of one of its free tours. Click here to learn more.