By Sophia Harris
A sculpture from the Danforth Museum collection was installed on Larned Beach March 29.
The sculpture, “Cells /,” depicts a figure emerging from a reflective slab.
According to the sculpture's plaque, the structure is made of stainless steel and bronze. It also features a mirror on the side facing the library.
This sculpture was created by David Bakalar in 1996, according to Jessica Roscio, director and curator of the Danforth Art Museum.
The sculpture was gifted to The Danforth Art Museum in 2003 by Bakalar, she said.
When the Danforth relocated to Vernon Street, some of its artwork and sculptures had to be temporarily relocated in order for the museum to have a smooth transition to its new building, she added.
Roscio said when the Danforth relocated to its current location and merged with Framingham State, the sculpture moved to Amazing Things Art Center and was there from 2016 to recently, when it was moved to FSU’s main campus.
The sculpture was donated as a long-term loan to Amazing Things. “They were so good as to help us out and take the sculpture for us until we could figure out what we were going to do,” Roscio said.
She said the director of Amazing Things contacted the Danforth Museum last summer and said as much as they love having the piece, they were really looking to renovate the space in front of their building.
She added, “I'm thrilled that they kept it as long as they did.”
Roscio said it took some time for the museum's staff to “figure out where on campus it was going to go.”
When choosing where on campus the sculpture would be located, the museum staff worked with the University's executive staff, capital planning, and Brian Bishop, an art professor and the chair of the Collections Committee at the museum, along with other members of the Art Department.
She said the process included touring the campus and looking for spaces the sculpture might look appealing.
Bishop said, “We thought, ‘Why not have more art on campus?’”
After the initial scouting tour was completed, the museum staff presented a list of locations they thought would be adequate and appealing for the sculpture and presented that list to the executive staff at the University, who helped narrow down the location, Roscio said.
She said at this stage, Capital Planning came in to assess where the sculpture could be placed based on the underground mechanics.
Roscio added Larned Beach had been a “first choice for everybody.”
Capital Planning ultimately decided it was the best spot for it on campus, she said.
Roscio said, “There were a lot of moving pieces, but the University was really, really wonderful to work with to help us figure out a home for it.”
“We wanted a place where people would be able to see it,” she said.
Bakalar’s art represents the connection between art and science.
Bishop said the location of the sculpture near Hemenway Labs represents the “integration” of these topics.
He added Bakalar’s artwork “has this connection to science always and to quantum physics and things like that.”
He added Bakalar’s art has a “connection to humanity and science and physics. I thought it could be an interesting thing” to be housed not so far from the STEM building.
Bishop said the sculpture “looks like he's pixelated - It looks like he's like either becoming something or deteriorating from something. I thought that was an interesting idea.”
Roscio said Bakalar’s art “definitely has a distinctive 80s and 90s flair.”
She said his art also represents a universal message, which is beneficial because “you really want it to be appealing to everybody.
“We are thrilled that it is finally in its new home and that people are enjoying it,” she added.
Sam Coombs, a senior studio art major, works as the Curatorial Fellow for the Danforth Art Museum.
She said she has been helping with the restoration of the sculpture’s base since it arrived on campus.
Coombs said Rachel Passannante, the collections manager at the museum, asked her to help give the base a “makeover.”
“I was totally on board. I was very excited that we would have an outside day of work,” she added.
Coombs said because of the long duration of time the sculpture has been outside, it needed “some maintenance.”
She said the sculpture “had a bunch of scratches and other paint on it.”
Coombs said the maintenance included sanding the base with a belt sander and giving it one coat of paint.
She added they were careful to use smaller pieces of sandpaper when they were sanding closer to the figure itself.
Coombs said the sculpture “definitely looks a lot better.”
She said learning the context of when the sculpture was made helped her better understand its meaning.
“The piece was made around the time that computers were first coming out. So having that chunk of information helps it make more sense to me,” she added.
Eric Gustafson, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations, assisted with the relocation of the sculpture.
He said the more FSU’s community can engage with the Danforth, “the better.”
Gustafson said the sculpture is an extension of bringing that collection to campus so Framingham State’s community can enjoy the Danforth Museum on FSU’s campus as well.
He said he thinks the artwork “is fantastic - I love it. I was really excited.”
Gustafson said, “The more art we can add to campus, the better, in my opinion.”
He added, “There was a brief time I was over there looking at it and there were a lot of waves of students walking by who stopped, and it was just fun to see people engage with the art. It's fantastic.”
Roscio said in the future, by the fall semester, the museum staff will be installing a plaque to explain what the artwork represents and information about the artist.
Sculptures by Bakalar are all over New England,including at campuses such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University.
Anthony Sims, a junior English major, said he thinks the sculpture is “neat,” but thinks Larned Beach should be converted into a field, rather than used for housing artwork.
He said, “It could very easily be turned into some sort of field to play sports on.”
Sims added he was more “entertained by the snowman” that was built on Larned Beach in March.
Hilary Lincoln, a junior biology major, said she was “surprised” to see a new piece of artwork on campus.
Faith Hensley, a junior business management major, said she was “confused at first” about the meaning of the sculpture, but after learning more about it, said she thinks “it’s really cool.”
Chelesea Simpson, a junior biology major, said she thinks the sculpture is “really cute.”
Simpson said when she first saw the sculpture in the dark walking back from the library, it scared her because she was not expecting it to be there.
Ariana Gotay, a senior political science major, said she likes the sculpture.
She added, “I think we should have more art around campus.”
Kyra Tolley, a freshman sociology major said, “I think it's really great and might inspire other people to start taking art classes or continue with their art. I think it's just really cool.”