Friday, December 10, 2010

We Heart Art

Yesterday, a Wish Tree sprouted on the campus green outside the library.
It's one of the many art installations that have popped up all over the UMF campus, small guerilla exhibitions that leap out at you unexpectedly as you walk through the buildings and grounds.
As I left the library, I shared a moment with a couple of complete strangers, standing under a tree rustling with hundreds of hand-written wishes. Some of the wishes are painful to read - so honest in their naked longing for something: love, or understanding, or healing.
Some of them are funny. Some are universally true. ("I wish someone would make jeans that fit." holla!) It was windy, so some of the wishes, dancing on long strings, were elusive, exactly as some wishes are. After we had caught and read a few, the stranger turned to his friend and said "Damn I love this school!" Amen to that. And to the anonymous artist of the Wish Tree: Thank You. (If you are the artist, please leave a comment so we can all give kudos to you!) Under that tree in a winter twilight, surrounded by your vision, I felt very, very lucky to work here.

So imagine my surprise and delight to find this sculpture waiting for me in right here in Mantor's browsing room! If you recall this post from back in July, you'll know what a big fan I am of art produced from books. This piece, entitled "Quiet No Longer", is made of books, and includes books about racism as part of the display. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to learn more from artist Samantha Funk, and she graciously agreed to answer some emailed questions. Samantha is a freshman, majoring in Art Administration/Art History. This project was for Prof. Christopher Lavery's Sculpture 1 class.

Bookjones: Samantha, what role does art play in your life right now?

Art has always played a role in my life; even when I was younger. I went through a traumatic experience and my mom thought that a good way to help me cope at such a young age (3 or 4 yrs old) was by going through art. I actually had an Art Therapist, and I really think that even though this horrible thing happened I was able to form a love for art. It has been not only a passion but a wonderful tool for me throughout my life.

Bookjones: In the future?

In the future I see art playing the same if not a more important role in my life. My major will allow me to cooperate with other facilities, institutions and individuals. I have a crazy goal that I have set for myself and that is to attend Yale's Art's and Sciences Graduate College to further my interest in museum studies/art administration.

What was the inspiration for this piece?

Honestly the inspiration for this piece came from the quote by Saint Augustine which is written on the human form. "The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind commands itself and meets resistance." This projects was in response to one of three "concepts" that our final sculpture was to be under; Noise, System and Skin. Originally I was looking at more of a system rather than skin but the project really developed on its own and created its own meaning without to much of the beginning stages of planning. When I realized that I in fact was leaning more towards Skin, I started thinking about how we as a culture focus so much on our own skin and how we have such a history of racism in this country. I want people to realize that even though we may THINK racism is "dead" it is in fact alive and booming in parts of our country and how we have as a whole decided unanimously to *not* talk about it. We need to talk about it, as a country, as a community and as an educational institution. We censor ourselves SO much that every day conversation is no longer organic because we want to make sure we are politically correct and unoffensive. My piece is intended to MAKE you talk about it and to MAKE you think about racism and how it effects everyone.
Bookjones: I love that you used "Sense and Sensibility" as the book you upcycled into your sculpture. Was that a random choice, or part of the message?

Samantha: What do you think the meaning of using Sense and Sensibility is to this sculpture? I like to leave pieces of my sculptures and art open to interpretation to the audience. If I told the entirety of the meaning of my work, that then leaves no room for people to form their own opinions and ideas about the work(s). I can tell you that I do have a meaning in mind, and that it was not a random choice for the piece.

Bookjones: Why was it important to you, as an artist, to display your sculpture in the library?

Samantha: This piece would not live anywhere else if it did not live in the library. If I had this outside, or sitting in the cafeteria that would change the piece entirely. Where the work lives, is where the meaning also lives. When we think of the library, what comes to mind? Knowledge, a place where we can educate ourselves. This is what I have learned so far in my studio art classes; where your work lives is extremely important. You need to think of the atmosphere, location and how you want your work displayed because this all plays a part in the interpretation of the work.

Bookjones: Can you talk a bit about the technical details of your sculpture? How was it constructed?

Samantha: The construction was the most difficult, frustrating, and invigorating process. Basically I told my younger brother [yay for siblings!] that I was going to wrap him up in saran wrap and clear packing tape. You had to be there for the look on his face. See you have to first wrap your form, and it can be anything not just human, in plastic wrap and then using clear packing tape you wrap that around and it holds the form of what your wrapping. I did his torso, arms, and legs on that Saturday night and it took about 4-5 hours just to do that. This was the first time I have ever used this method and you can't do it all at once you have to do sections, and then put it together. I didn't use enough tape and plastic wrap for it to survive the 4 hour trip back to school so I ended up stuffing each section with newspaper and it allowed me to transport it safely without damage. The head is my own, I had to do this also in sections. Next to the hands and fingers its probably the hardest section to do. After I had it all stuffed and put together that's when I started attaching the pages of Sense and Sensibility. I again used clear packing tape because I liked how the pages looked to be "under his skin." I would say attaching the pages took close to 14 hours combined to put together. If anyone wants to attempt doing this method I highly suggest using more materials than I did. (More plastic wrap, more tape)

Samantha welcomes comments and questions about her exhibit at her email address:

Samantha is planning on leaving her piece in the browsing room through Monday, possibly Tuesday. I don't know how long the Wish Tree will be growing outside our door, so hurry in and experience them both.

My wish? That all of the artists who have left bits of themselves around our campus will know how much we appreciate them.



  1. Wonderful art, and excellent commentary! Thank you one and all -- this really IS a great place to work!

  2. Very proud to call myself Mom of the wish tree artist :) Once again her imagination races off and touches those around her :)