“People come here and then complain that they couldn’t find it,” Jo-Ann Conklin, the curator of the Bell Gallery, says as she stands on the College Green facing To Tallness, a rough-hewn granite shaft by sculptor Isamu Noguchi. In the dappled sunlight of the surrounding elms the gray-brown stone looks completely at home—yet another tree trunk. If you move around to the south, though, the light catches the surface differently, recalling the stone faces on Easter Island.
To Tallness is one of three sculptures to appear on campus over the last year. Getting them to Brown is the result of over twenty years of work, says Visual Arts Professor Richard Fishman, noting that for decades he pressed Brown administrators to install public art, but did not find a receptive ear until President Simmons arrived.
With a limited budget, the Committee on Public Art (Fishman, Conklin, and two other colleagues) decided to see what was on loan. The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation lent a painted stainless-steel piece called Paintbrush Head; it stood in the lobby of List Art Center last year and was later moved to the Watson Institute. The Noguchi Foundation offered To Tallness. A living artist, David Nash, of England, loaned Box Cross, a charred black block with a cross excised from its center. It squats on a gravel bed outside List.
An unintended advantage of the loan program, says Conklin, is that “no one is threatened by something that is not going to be permanent.”