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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Magic Figures

This doesn't seem right...
Recently, student tour guide extraordinaire Matt Mitts stumbled by as I was conducting an informal campus tour for some UTSA colleagues. We were near the "Magic Stones" - a sculpture set in the middle of campus - and I asked Matt to talk about these pieces. He said that, according to legend, if you rub the "Stones," before an exam it will bring you good luck. He also stated that there is an identical set in some Scottish glen, presumably in Scotland. A Scottish glen would actually be an outdoor museum, but certainly there are mystical creatures near there studying Scottish Bio on behalf of our students. It turns out there may be some good luck to be had in Milwaukee as well. Maybe if our students rub the "Stones" the right way a mystical tap will emerge.

It seems like this should be a big deal. If this is the stuff of legend, then we should have some facts. So I did exactly what we tell our students NOT to do. I went to Wikipedia. ACTUALLY, first I Googled "A Conversation with Magic Stones," which I understand to be the anatomically correct title of the artwork. And that isn't even really correct (more on that later). I also looked up the "Stones" in the Trinity history book by Doug Brackenridge, but surprisingly found nothing. He tells me there are tales of the student traditions in the library archives. But I am not walking all the way to the library. Finally,  I spoke with some more student tour guides - Laura Kalb and Amani Piers - and they were really helpful except they didn't know anything. Laura has slept with the Stones (NOT the band) and says her grades did not reflect her efforts whatsoever. But you can't trust a rock band.

Barbara Hepworth is the abstract artist who created the Magic Stones. I did not know that. She is a Dame, which I think is like being a Dean, but only snootier. She was born in 1903 and died in 1975. In 1970 she produced "Family of Man," which bears an amateurish similarity to our Magic Stones, which she crafted three years later. Most of her art work, it seems to me, would make great earrings if shrunk to appropriate proportions.

She seemed like a lovely woman, though it is difficult to age well. In any case, Trinity should know more about her. After all, we often refer to the Large Interior Form statue in connection with ITS artist, Henry Moore. He is also deceased and is not the Henry Moore in Houston. He aged pretty well, which seems unfair to Barbara. They would have made a nice couple, I think, and their eras and locations actually over-lapped. I am, apparently, a matchmaker of posthumous abstract sculpted proportions, which isn't like me. No matter: Their lives do collide, here, on our campus.

But I digress.

So, I learned (I think) that there are sets of Magic Stones in Scotland, in St. Ives England, at Trinity, in Switzerland, and in Milwaukee. Ms. Hepworth isn't the only one to distribute landmarks liberally. See University of Dallas and Grant Park in Chicago. Isn't there anything original about us?

I also learned that the three smaller pieces are the "stones" and the three taller pieces are "vertical figures." So, we should really call them Barbara Hepworth's "A Conversation with Magic Stones and Vertical Figures,"  which is why we call them the "Magic Stones."

The "Magic Stones" represent themes of human interaction and something about vertical planes, which I would describe if I knew anything about humans, planes, or art.

Most importantly, though, I like to imagine that some Scottish college students rub their own stones, so to speak, thinking that there is a lucky, mystical, glen in San Antonio. Wouldn't that be ironic? But it might explain Laura Kalb's grades.


1 comment:

Mike Bacon said...

Always worth remembering that both the Henry Moore sculpture and the Barbara Hepworth were donated to Trinity by Arthur and Jane Stieren, loyal Trinity supporters. Mr. Stieren was a long-time trustee for Trinity and his wife, Jane Stieren Lacy, worked at Trinity for a number of years. Mrs. Lacy tells a story of how they were in England and visited with both sculptors. They fell in love with both pieces and decide to just buy them both and bring them to Trinity. Their generosity has brought enjoyment and apparently luck to many generations of Trinity Students.