New Maxey Statues Elicit Mixed Responses

James Kennedy

Photo by Marra Clay

On Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 two statues created by J. Frank Munns, the artist currently featured in the Sheehan Gallery, were established outside the entrance to Maxey Hall. In short, Munns was a local artist that recently passed away, and much of his work is a result of his interests in shamanism and Day of the Dead iconography. These menacing animal skull figures are no exception.

Sheehan Gallery Director Daniel Forbes discussed the process that art goes through before it finds its way to the campus. Permanent art fixtures are often proposed by individuals or groups, then decided on by the Art Advisory Committee. Once the statues were approved by the committee, an extensive scouting process was carried out to find the best location for the piece, and those locations were then ranked based on aesthetic appeal as well as connection to the artist.

According to Forbes, the final location was established based on Munns’ relationship to history and connection to anthropology, as well as the proximity of the Maxey Museum. The secluded nature of the space also factored into the final decision.

Photo by Marra Clay

“It’s not quite as public as other places on campus … The way that landscaping was there already created a natural backdrop, sort of stage for the pieces to interact with,” said Forbes.

Some community members have shown concern for the statues’ place at Whitman. One (who remained unnamed) was concerned that the more mature nature of the piece would be inappropriate for younger visitors to the campus.

Faculty based in Maxey, who would logically have the most exposure to the piece, were screened about the background of the artist and nature of the statues shortly after the location was decided. Several weeks later, some faculty members are still unsure about the piece. Among them isĀ Adjunct Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages Devon Wootten.

“I don’t really know what to think yet,” said Wootten.

He definitively stated that the piece is “not boring,” but beyond that he believes he will need more time to adjust to the statues and form a complete opinion on them.

However, Forbes claims the response has been a primarily positive one, with numerous students, staff and community members contacting him and showing their appreciation. First-year student Brianna Pimentel took a few days to notice the piece but found a deep fascination with it once she did.

Photo by Marra Clay

She found the piece had a certain “flow” to it, drawing from both its “humanlike” and “exotic” qualities.

“[It’s] really engaging and appealing to the eye,” said Pimentel.