The (Subjective) Power of Public Sculpture

"Sculpture in the LMA can be so many things to each of us. One day a reason to stop and contemplate, the next just a landmark along our way. But every piece has the potential to inspire.”

--Stephen Dill, Interim Director of Marketing, Wheelock College

Some of us have thought about individual works for years. Others rush right by them. To you we say: slow down, interact with one of the many outdoor sculptures in the LMA. The pieces here will reward your careful attention.

Don’t worry. There are no right answers. Or right questions. As you would expect in an environment as creative as the LMA, these sculptures aren’t inert, they’re catalysts, open to whatever possibilities you see in them.

To get you started, we have selected five very different pieces. Realistic. Abstract. Primitive. But don’t settle for descriptions when you can experience them in person. How about today?

Sky Covenant by Louise Nevelson at the Riverway entrance to Temple Israel

As the artist herself said: “Humans really are heir to every possibility within themselves, and it’s only up to us to admit it and accept it.” Nevelson intended this work to represent the universe as an individual might see it: initially, a vast array of unrelated objects that, upon contemplation, begins to reveal connections, a larger design, meaning. The sculpture’s construction leads your eye upward from ground level in a movement that symbolizes the union of human and Divine. From Temple Israel’s own description: “The Creation myth reveals a Jewish view of the universe in words. Sky Covenant portrays a Jewish view of the universe in steel.”

We! by David Bakalar in front of the Campus Center, Wheelock College

You might say that Bakalar’s “we” refers to the fact that sculptor and viewer are in it together. Technically, this work’s aluminum slices define three abstract figures. But where are they going? From one angle, they’re sauntering down the Riverway, a nice bit of contextual positioning. But that’s just one perspective. The sculpture’s mood is also quicksilver, changing with the light, the season and, of course, your own frame of mind. Wheelock has two other Bakalars on campus.

Life Emerging by Janice Corkin Rudolf in front of the Karp Family Research Center at Children’s Hospital

Architecture alone cannot always convey the full sense of an organization’s purpose. Just imagine the Karp Center’s façade without Life Emerging. The two small figures surrounded by what the artist describes as a “cell-like orb” speak volumes about Children’s Hospital’s mission and spirit. The beautifully aged verdigris patina reflects Children’s stature as a Boston institution. We think you’ll agree Life Emerging is finely attuned to its role and setting.

Sentinels by Leslie Wilcox in the Academic Quad, Simmons College

Wilcox has created a variety of installations involving trees wrapped in translucent stainless steel; we’re lucky to have one of her sculptures here in the LMA. While the title suggests military tunics, MASCO’s Laura Fogerty has always thought of them as the Graduation Gowns. The artist acknowledges the presence of humor in her work—and these unexpectedly togged-out trees might strike you that way, if you encounter them at noon. But what if you’re hurrying by at midnight?

All Time Belongs to God by George Greenamyer on Huntington Avenue at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Created by a sculptor and blacksmith who taught at the school for 40 years, this 19-foot kinetic work combines Greenamyer’s passions for folk art, protest art, and executions that are “punchy, rough and not vague.” According to Mass Art’s Roberto Barretto, “All Time Belongs to God” is Greenamyer’s statement on how we perceive ourselves in the world. He draws on a variety of artistic traditions—as well as his own skepticism and sense of humor—to make points about Good and Evil, Time and Humanity.”