June 27, 2012
12-167

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

VSU Adds Mythological Creature To Outdoor Art Collection

 

VALDOSTA -- It stands nine feet tall and is made of painted steel. Many believe that it is a fire-breathing dragon. However, the sculpture standing just outside Valdosta State University’s Odum Library is actually Fenris.

Also known as Fenrir, Fenric, and Fenrisulfer, Fenris, according to Norse mythology, is the wolf monster son of the trickster Loki and the giantess Angrboda. His sister is the goddess Hel; his brother is the evil serpent Jormungand.

Having received prophecies of disaster after Fenris’ birth, the principal god, Odin, cast Hel into Helheim, realm of the dead, and Jormungand into the sea. Fenris was held captive. According to the myths, he will remain bound until Ragnarok, when the ground will shudder and set him free, nine worlds will burn, and friend and foe will perish. The earth will sink into the sea. A new and idyllic world will arise; wickedness and misery will no longer exist.

Charles E. Hook, a Florida State University art professor and internationally known sculptor who died in mid-March at the age of 59 after a two-year battle with cancer, created VSU’s Fenris sculpture. His large-scale, abstract metal sculptures can be found around Tallahassee, Fla. He also created works in the United Kingdom and South America.

“My interest in Norse mythology stems from my Scottish ancestors who were descended from the Vikings,” he was previously quoted as saying. “The Hook family coat of arms had on it a wolf with a forked tongue. I am drawn to Fenris because he is a creature who never really did anything wrong but was jailed because others were terrified of him.”

Dr. John Gaston, dean of the College of the Arts, noted that Hook’s Fenris is the latest addition to university’s outdoor art collection. It was installed on Friday, June 1.

TAKING ART OUTSIDE THE GALLERY

Gaston said the university’s growing outdoor art collection “enhances the image of the university. VSU has one of the most beautiful campuses in the University System of Georgia.”

The first sculpture was installed during the summer of 2011 just outside of the Fine Arts Building on the corner of Brookwood Drive and Oak Street.

The university’s outdoor art collection consists of five pieces. “Cormorant” by Harry McDaniel and “Three Spheres” by Hoss Haley, both from North Carolina, can be found outside the Fine Arts Building. “Fly Away Too” by Andrew Light of Tallahassee, Fla., can be found outside the College of Education on Baytree Road. Fenris, of course, greets all those who visit the Odum Library.

The university’s seventh president, Dr. Ronald Zaccari, created and donated the fifth piece, “Black Bird,” which is located between the Odum Library and the Student Union.

Zaccari noted that his sculpture stands approximately seven feet high and is made of steel. It was originally designed as a “stabile” that rested on three points. However, he fabricated a circular base to which the sculpture was attached, allowing for more stability for placement at VSU.

“The sculpture was initially designed as a paper model, approximately six inches high, and then transmitted to a hard-drive/computer,” he said. “The related software allowed the paper model to be projected into a larger scale replica. Once the steel was cut to specifications, component parts were bolted together to form the finished sculpture. The paint is semi-gloss black powder coat, which is more durable than regular enamel.”

Zaccari, a multi-media artist known primarily for his three-dimensional steel images, said it took him two months to construct and paint the sculpture, which was originally designed and built for a one-person exhibit held at the university’s Fine Arts Gallery in 2004. The sculpture was an integral part of his home and landscape before being offered to VSU.

“The sculptures have generated a lot of conversation,” said Gaston, who serves as chairman of a six-member committee charged with building the university’s permanent art collection. “I’ve seen students taking pictures of themselves and their friends with the sculptures. The sculptures have also been the subject of discussion among students and visitors to the campus and have given our students ideas for creative work and the opportunity to study other artists’ work.”

Along with Gaston and a student body representative, Blake Pearce, head of the Department of Art; Julie Bowland, art professor and director of the Fine Arts Gallery; Donald Penny, retired art professor; and Deborah Davis, certified archivist, director of Archives and Special Collections, and chairwoman of the Library Art Committee, would like to acquire a piece of outdoor art for every major building on campus.

“Right now, we are thinking about the fall,” Gaston explained. “Our goal is to install two to three pieces a year, depending on our funds. So far, we have been fortunate to find good art and good deals.”

Gifts, like Zaccari’s “Black Bird” sculpture, are welcomed and encouraged.

“People who cannot gift a building can gift a sculpture,” Gaston added.

“I consider the initiative of campus art to be another transformational step for VSU,” said Zaccari, who served as president from 2002 to 2008.

Please contact Dr. John Gaston, dean of the College of the Arts, at (229) 333-5832 or jgaston@valdosta.edu for more information on Valdosta State University’s outdoor art collection.

NOTE: Additional sculptures are in progress. In the coming weeks, a sculpture by Mark Dickson, “Guardian at the Gate,” will be installed at the College of Education. User-friendly “Palm Benches” by Ira Hill will be completed by the fall.

Additional photos of outdoor art available on VSU's Flickr account http://www.flickr.com/photos/valdostastate/sets/72157630357932496/