Students trekking to the Old Well before classes might encounter an Appalachian-sized arachnid on the way there.
On August 7, UNC installed two sculptures: “Crouching Spider” and “Eye Benches I” by contemporary artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois. "Eye Benches I," located in front of Phillips Hall, will be on campus for the next two years, while “Crouching Spider,” which is front of the New West Building, will be on campus for one.
When Chancellor Carol Folt was provost at Dartmouth, she encountered “Crouching Spider,” and has since dreamt of bringing Bourgeois’ work to the UNC campus, according to a statement from the University. The spider, and benches' arrival on campus has elicited a range of emotions on social media — confusion, intrigue and discomfort, to name a few.
However, Cary Levine, an associate professor in contemporary art, said that's the beauty of it.
“It makes you squirm in a good way," Levine said. "It’s weird. It’s fantastic. It’s wonderful and disconcerting at the same time. There’s something creepy about both works, and I hope that students begin with works like this to think about art.”
UNC is always teeming with new visitors, which Levine said will increase its influence. He said the spider sculpture's size — it's nearly 9 feet tall and 27 feet in width — is also helps aid to its presence on campus.
“It’s right smack-dab in the middle of everything," he said. "It’s right off of Cameron, which cuts through the campus. This is challenging work that is sitting right there — that everyone will unavoidably pass and notice.”
The eye-shaped sculptures encourage visitors to interact with them by sitting on them, while “Crouching Spider” encourages visitors to weave throughout its legs and take in its size from a variety of perspectives. Bourgeois' work, however, is not just a spectacle; the sculptures both contain meanings from her life.
Emil Kang, special assistant to the Chancellor for the Arts, quoted a story from Bourgeois’ childhood to explain the spider's meaning in an email to The Daily Tar Heel: “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver... spiders are helpful and protective, like my mother."
Ayla Gizlice, a senior studio art major in the process of doing her honors thesis, said her work will soon be displayed near Bourgeois.'
“It’s awesome that we, as students, get to encounter her work on a daily basis,” Gizlice said.
She hopes this will bring a more direct connection between the art department and the sculptures, which she doesn't feel is present now.
Levine and Kang said they hope that the sculptures instill an interest in art and encourage students to pursue an art education further. Kang said students should take any initial interest in art further by finding an arts-related student group that speaks to their interest. He said this fall, students will be able to use the Arts Everywhere Painting Studio in the basement of Morrison Residence Hall with OneCard access.
"I’d also encourage any student with an interest in the arts to connect with the art and art history faculty members on our campus to find out how they can integrate their interests into their course schedule to strengthen that foundation,” Kang said.
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