Tin Pan Alley

By Charlotte Bruce Harvey '78 / May/June 2013
April 25th, 2013

In the 1990s conceptual artist Tom Friedman wowed the art world with sly sculptures made out of junk: toothpicks, sugar cubes, packing peanuts. Some of his work was downright rude; he once placed a sample of his feces on a pedestal, to the amusement of
critics, if not necessarily the public.

Last fall an anonymous donor gave Brown one of Friedman’s less shocking sculptures—the jubilant, life-size Circle Dance, which is now installed on the Pembroke Walk. The donor bought it on a whim and offered it to Brown, says Bell Gallery director Jo-Ann Conklin, who is on the Public Art Committee, which approved the gift.

Based on Matisse’s painting La Danse, the sculpture is twenty-two feet wide and depicts eleven figures circling wildly. It’s cast in stainless steel, but up close you can see that the mold is made from crushed aluminum roasting pans. You can even read the manufacturer’s label imprinted on the pans.

Since the dancers were installed last fall, students have been inspired to adorn them in hats and scarves, and during a blizzard, one dancer was transformed into a snowman. When students in a dance class were instructed to go outside and find something to dance with, they couldn’t resist all those shiny metal partners.

The artist is delighted, says Conklin: “He has quite the sense of humor. He loves the image of students dancing with it.”

Photograph by Erik Gould. 

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May/June 2013