Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Sculptures bring various cultures to campus

(Part 2 of an ongoing series)

Four sculptures on campus are all fairly tall and hold interesting cultural history. For this week’s sculpture survey, we investigate the stories behind the towering works of Four Columns, The Benedict Totem, The Totem Pole and The Tiki.

These four sculptures bring different cultural influences to campus. The two totems come from Native American culture. The Tiki represents Hawaiian and Polynesian cultural practice, and Four Columns was inspired by Persian art. These sculptures also display a variety of sculpture materials from wood to metal.

IMG_2227-web-02
Four Columns by artist Lee Kelly stands on the Reid Side Lawn. Photo by Rachael Barton.

Although Artist Lee Kelly conceptually based his sculpture on columns found in Ancient Persia, Four Columns ultimately looks nothing like its architectural inspiration. The columns of ancient Persia are fluted with square bases and some kind of adornment on top, often two bulls facing in opposite directions. Four Columns has no fluting and is instead topped with a geometric adornment: a triangle, two offset conjoined semicircles, half of a lightning bolt and a semicircle.

Kelly’s work represents an adaptation and modernization of the iconic Ancient Persian columns. In addition to the style, the material of the sculpture makes the piece an adaptation. Kelly made Four Columns from steel and enamel, gave it the color of rust and dotted it with colored spots. Kelly sculpted Four Columns in 1988 and Whitman purchased the piece in 2002 with money from the Garvin Family Art Fund. Located on the Reid Campus Center Side Lawn, this often-unseen work contains much history and thought.

IMG_2245-web-05
Donated by Lloyd Benedict ’41, the Benedict Totem towers over the sidewalk behind Maxey Hall. Photo by Rachael Barton.

The Benedict Totem was donated by Lloyd Benedict, who is an alumnus of the class of 1941. This totem pole stands out for its striking colors and imagery. Much of the pole is painted white, creating the perfect background for the bird it features. The outstretched wings of the bird break the linear structure of the totem pole. The pole is located behind Maxey Hall, near Penrose House.

Located near Four Columns, Totem Pole brings a different perspective from the pair of other totem poles. James Praying Wolf Jewell carved this pole. He incorporated Coast Salish and Alaska Native styles in the creation of this pole. The piece is 24-feet tall, made of Western red cedar, and is dominated by red and black tones. Jewell is a member of the Lummi Nation, a Native Nation in the Pacific Northwest, and he weaves cultural elements into his pieces to provoke understanding and awareness. His poles are often called healing poles. One of his better-known works is Liberty and Freedom, a totem carved for the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks. Former Whitman College President Tom Cronin commissioned Whitman’s totem pole in 2000.

The Tiki, created by James Paulik, sits on College Creek at the edge of campus, near “Narnia.” The sculpture was donated in 2000 by Baker Ferguson to celebrate Hawaiian and Polynesian students on campus. The piece is carved from wood, and the carved details call attention to the piece that otherwise blends in with its natural surroundings.

These four pieces often go unnoticed to people running to class, but their presence highlights the importance of art and culture on campus.

Photo by Rachael Barton.
Photo by Rachael Barton.
More to Discover