Work continued yesterday on installation of a new public artwork in FGCU's Marieb Hall. Titled, Verve, the artwork features more than 400 crystal-coated fused glass pieces suspended from an all-aluminum truss attached to the top of the atrium located in the building's lobby.
While public art delivers myriad benefits, one of its chief functions in a university setting is to engender a deeper interaction with a place by the people who visit, work and study there. Public art creates human scaling of open areas by framing the space, draws people together by inducing strangers to talk to one another, engages the faculty and student body, and adds to their visual quality of life.
But good public art does more than stimulate conversation and make a space seem more welcoming. It relates to the environment in which it is located, a goal sculptor Michele Gutlove has accomplished by creating hundreds of pieces of fused glass to conjure the nuclei and dendrites of three neurons.
“Neurons are essentially the brain’s messengers, relaying messages electronically throughout the human brain and spinal chord,” Gutlove explains. “Many intricate trees of highly branched extensions called dendrites extend from the surface of each cell body and serve as receptors to collect signals from other neurons.”
After light enters your eye, for example, it is turned into signals that are picked up by dendrites. Neurons carry these signals almost instantaneously to various parts of the brain, prompting your eyelids to squint, the muscles in your hand and arm to catch a ball, or more neurons to create new signals that send inklings of thought darting through your brain.
Gutlove's installation team consists of husband, Jeff, who is, like Michele, an architect, daughter Aliza, and son, Zev, as well as family friends Caitlyn Thompson and Malcolm Littlefield. And like the sculptor's fused glass neurons, her team was firing last night on all synapses as they carried out the delicate task of assembling a nucleus and then attaching it atop a fully-extended scissor lift to the truss that bisects the ceiling of the lobby atrium. Each team member, wearing white T-shirts that identify them as "Authorized Personnel," has their own highly-honed area of expertise that is "age oblivious."
At times, older sister Aliza took instruction from younger brother Zev, and both teens took turns guiding their father as he maneuvered the scissor lift up and down and back and forth as they installed the second of three nuclei, mindful of the fact that any errant bump or jostle could spell disaster for the all-glass artwork.
"It's actually a lot of fun," Michele explained as she watched the install from the corner of her eye. The family typically drives to the site of each commission and engages in unabashed sightseeing on the return trip. "Although that won't be possible this time," Gutlove adds, "since I have to be in Norway in a few days to do a presentation for a new public artwork that I hope to install there."
"I think we're about on schedule," Jeff estimated, when asked if they'll finish up by the start of classes on Monday. It may take two more 18-hour days, but if the team continues to work together like a fully-functioning neuron, returning students will have an astonishing hanging glass sculpture to admire when they enter the lobby of Marieb Hall on January 6.