Public Art at Williams
Large Bowl, 1997
Ursula Von Rydingsvard (American, b. 1942)
Purchased by the President and Trustees of Williams College with funds provided by Alicia V. and Peter B. Pond, Class of 1967
Photo by Megan Cross
I am drawn to that part of the world where man-made walls erode in a way where there is no longer a strict line between that which man has made and that which nature has made.
–Ursula von Rydingsvard
Commissioned to coincide with the 2000 opening of the new Unified Science Center, Ursula von Rydingsvard’s Large Bowl is a twelve foot tall, eighteen thousand pound bronze casting of a cedar “mother” sculpture in Cologne, Germany. Purchased from the artist with funds from Alicia V. and Peter B. Pond ’67, the work was cast by the Tallix Foundry in Beacon, New York.
Von Rydingsvard was born in Germany in 1942, spending her childhood in refugee camps before emigrating to America. Having lived a childhood of deprivation, her works often transform everyday objects such as bowls, shovels, or baskets into epic monuments. According to von Rydingsvard, “the structure of the bowl is a means by which I can understand almost anything,…principally because it hints at so many sensations. Sustenance, domesticity, fertility and emptiness immediately come to mind, but this vessel of emotions can…be an exposed maw or a cavern bristling with jagged contours.”
Professor of Chemistry Charles M. Lovett Jr., a member of the committee that participated in the acquisition of the sculpture, remarked, “Bowl was chosen to complement the surrounding architecture, echoing the bold verticals of the science center as well as the rougher and smaller wooden houses.” More than just sympathetic with the architecture that surrounds it, in its relationship to natural forces and elements, the piece is resonant with its role as a resident of the College’s science facilities. Von Rydingsvard creates her wooden bowls without models by accumulating chunks of cedar, wearing down individual blocks, and rubbing them with graphite, thereby replicating the long term effects of nature on the soft surface of wood. Not only does the process of the piece’s making simulate erosion, but also, the form of the sculpture suggests a massive geological formation, the color of the bowl evoking the natural substances of soil or rock.