This past weekend, Travis Phillips’ senior art exhibition “Leaf Fountain” was vandalized, following past incidents of vandalism on students’ art pieces this semester.
Monday 9:30 a.m., Phillips was about to turn his fountain on only to find one of the aluminum leaves snapped off from its stainless steel rod “stem.” The fountain piece was apparently stolen, since it was nowhere in sight. Campus police doesn’t have any leads as of yet, and are not sure whether this was an accident or simply a malicious act.
Junior Katie Tweedle reported to have seen the piece in the women’s bathroom of the Church of the Incarnation Sunday night, but since she did not know what it was, she didn’t touch it. When she was at Incarnation again Monday morning, it was gone.
Phillips will have to spend this week before finals fixing his project. Since he has to present it this Friday, and making a new leaf takes about ten days, he will not be able to use the same process in order to fix it. He is still trying to figure out a way to repair the damage and also have it ready in time.
“My reaction was complete devastation,” Phillips said. “My heart was broken. It is going to be such a headache for me, it’s not a simple fix. It was something they did so easily without a thought or care in the world, but now it is going to be astronomically difficult for me.”
What seems like a simple and minimalistic fountain actually required an entire academic year to make. Phillips has been working on it since September, and he says after doing the math he estimates that he has put, though it may sound like an exaggeration, one thousand hours into it, while supplies cost him fifteen hundred dollars..
The process required making a clay prototype and molds, melting aluminum, priming and painting the leaves, and finally welding on a joint which would attach to the stem. Even more work was included in the plumbing, which required digging trenches, burying electrical cords and water hoses and digging holes for the actual ponds.
Art professors are outraged and saddened by the apparent disrespect for a student’s hard work. Phillip Shore, the professor teaching Second Semester Senior Studio, the class for which Phillips made this project, expressed his disappointment with this act:
“[The artwork is] not offensive, it’s beautiful. Why would somebody do this?” Shore said. “And if they did it accidentally, why didn’t they leave it there and contact him? All the evidence leads to something malicious, which is too bad. I dug through all the grass to see if they just threw it to try and hide it, and I couldn’t find anything. Now instead of just two hours, he has a lot of time he needs to invest so that Friday, when his family is here for the opening, it’s up and running.”
According to the Art Gallery Curator, Christina Hayes Haley, this is not the first act of violence toward artwork on campus.
Recently, during a reception and talk for an art exhibit, someone threw their shoes at a pedestal containing artwork. Fortunately, the work was not damaged and the person was caught.
Another incident occurred during the Carpenter Hall Wake, where some people were caught spray painting an exhibition by graduate student Art Garcia. Instead of being reported, they were simply told to leave. Later, the exhibition was found to have been sprayed with fire extinguishers.
Haley and some art students then had to go take out some artwork being stored in the building that was in danger of being damaged by the fumes, which Haley and the students had to breath in, causing them to get sick. Facilities workers also had to withstand the fumes as they moved out the whole building the next day.
Haley pointed to the fact that all three of these acts do not portray the beliefs and values of the UD community:
“I can’t think of anyone I know here that would do it … it’s out of character for the school,” Haley said. “I can suspect the type of person who did it … someone who doesn’t respect, or maybe even understand, the level of work [put into it]. With the virtues and values that the school instills, there’s no place for this. You don’t have to like it, but to then just destroy it is a barbaric act.”
“It makes me more reluctant to make public artwork,” Phillips said. “Which is sad, because there is (sic) a lot of people who enjoyed it.”
Phillips also had a statement for the individual who stole the piece, should they be reading this:
“I just wanted to say that, whoever did it, if you read this article and feel any sympathy in your heart, please return the piece,” Phillips said. “If they return the leaf, they can just leave it at the fountain, and they don’t have to turn themselves in … I won’t press any charges. If they don’t return it, and they are caught, then I will press charges.”