The Scroll: Art @ UST

Susan Alexander

Susan Alexander

Ever since I boldly offered my opinion of two prominent St. Thomas outdoor sculptures (“Ten Things I Hate About St. Thomas”) in November 2012, campus art cognoscenti have sought my advice on art.

Consequently, I have decided to order new business cards – Susan Alexander, noted art critic and economist.

When Mark Stansbury-O’Donnell (Art History) heard this, he gently suggested that I might need more of a track record before going professional. In an effort to build my reputation, I am following up with additional musings about UST artwork.

First of all, contrary to rumor, we do have art that I like. I am particularly fond of Constellation Earth on the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library plaza. It brings the sense of connectedness that universities should foster.

That’s not all. I am proud of our Asmat art collection. Not only is it one of the largest in the world, but pieces from the collection have been on exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Musical Instruments Museum in Arizona. I love seeing those “On Loan from the University of St. Thomas” tags.

We also have a magnificent collection from the estate of local collector Dolly Fiterman.

But really one does not make a name in art criticism by being nice. So . . .

I considered critiquing Frank Gehry’s Winton Guest House on the Owatonna campus. After all, the house is small and has no plumbing. How long would any guest want to stay under those circumstances? But Victoria Young (Art History) is still speaking to me, and I want to keep it that way. Maybe there is an Andy Warhol port-a-potty we could purchase for the house.

My next idea was an exposé of “In the Beginning” on South Campus. The problem with this option is that I do not understand the work. I cannot tell front from back, or beginning from end. Looked at one way, the piece starts with the less well-defined figure near the corner and works toward the fully developed literary woman. But it also makes sense to start from reading woman and work toward the liberated, open flying figure. I may be too linear a thinker for the art critic gig. My attention span also may be too short – I look at this piece for five minutes and my mind wanders to Roger Vadim’s “And God Created Woman.” I’m pretty sure that the sculptor was not thinking of the 1956 film and Brigitte Bardot.

Okay, here’s my last shot at fame. “The Family” sculpture strikes me as exemplary of all that was wrong with Soviet industrial art. The title actually may be “the Nuclear Family;” there is no longer an identifying placard. It probably had one when it was located on the east wall of the old field house. While there are many reasons to be pleased with the AARC, not the least for me was not having to pass by “The Family” every day on my way into the office. When “The Family” was dismantled during construction, I heard that the university might be willing to part with it. My heart leapt. Then I found out the piece weighs three tons and no one was willing to pay the $40,000 to relocate it. I am not easily discouraged, however, and I started a rumor it was three tons of solid copper. Surely someone would steal it for scrap value! No such luck – it is now securely attached to the east side of Brady Educational Center. I hear it was on the west side, but the community garden eggplant threatened ratatouille and the tomatoes withered on the vine.

Those vegetables know their art.