In this second of a three-part series on Williams College public works of art, we explore sculptures that were installed on the campus in the 1900s.
A bench and a bronze-on-marble-base sculpture titled "For Charlie" were permanently placed in Mission Park after 1985, according to records in the Williams College Museum of Art.
In a celebration of the life of Charles Piper Cost held at Thompson Memorial Chapel on Sept. 14, 1986, Francis Oakley, President of Williams College from 1985-1993, addressed the attendees. "(This) is a celebration of the deep affection that Charlie bore his family and friends and the affection all of you bore for him - an affection that these memorials in the years to come will project boldly forward to the history of time."
In addition to the sculpture and bench in Mission Park, a weaving memorial by Charlotte Durgin, a family friend, was placed in the Chapel’s Tower Meditation Room. Family and friends donated all the memorials.
The bench was designed by F. Andrus Burr and made by Allen Williams. American sculptor John Safer created the sculpture. Safer’s works stand in museums, galleries and embassies all over the world, including Ascent, a 75-foot-high work currently displayed at the entrance of the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport.
Charlie came to Williams after graduating from Deerfield Academy in the class of 1983. At Williams, he was a member of the crew team and the Christian Fellowship Group.
In letters to relatives and friends, Charlie described his surroundings as "an unbelievably lovely place with mountains all around." And he wrote about Winter Study courses, such as skiing. "Lots of snow lately and the hills are nearby. Traying is also fun. This entails sliding down golf course hills on a plastic tray that was quietly borrowed from Baxter dining hall. "
Charles Piper Cost died unexpectedly on Sept. 14, 1984, when he was in his second year at Williams, but he is not forgotten.
"Calligraph LC," situated in relationship with the striking staircase at the back of Lawrence Hall, was created by internationally recognized abstract expressionist sculptor Herbert Ferber (1906-1991). Ferber studied dentistry and sculpture simultaneously, and until the 1950s, maintained careers as a sculptor, painter and a part-time dentist. The first major museum retrospective of his work was presented at the Walker Art Center in 1963. Now Ferber’s works of art are part of the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery and the Whitney Museum of Art, among others.
Edith Ferber, the artist’s widow, donated "Calligraph LC" to Williams College.
Professor of Art Eugene Johnson enjoys seeing "Calligraph LC" on a regular basis. "I pass by it on my way to and from [classes]" Johnson said in a telephone interview. Like many American abstract artists of the Post -World War II era, Herbert Ferber was fascinated by Asian calligraphy. He transformed a two-dimensional, personal means of expression into a monumental sculpture. The vigor of calligraphic strokes of ink on paper becomes sharp copper points thrust into space. I wonder what LC stands for. Lost Causes? Love Chocolate? Le Corbusier?"
Several of the works of art on the Williams campus were installed during the 1973-1985 administration of President Emeritus John Chandler. "I am especially attracted to the Rainspouts sculptures that Lee Hirsch created and installed in 1981 as a part of the project that entailed building the Bernhard Music Center and converting the basement area in Chapin Hall into practice rooms and other spaces for the Department of Music," Chandler said recently via phone from his home in Williamstown.
A series of abstract sculptures, the copper and brass "Rainspouts" were the result of a collaboration between Lee Hirsche, a Williams College professor of art from 1956 to 1985, and Georgia Glick, a Williamstown metal smith and welder.
"When we commissioned Lee to do the ‘Rainspouts’ sculptures he was devoting all his time to creating new works of art. He was then in what I think of as his ‘water’ period, when he was building many fountains," said Chandler. "The ‘Rainspouts’ sculptures reveal Lee’s whimsical and playful aspect of his work. The sculptures look as though they might have come out of the imagination of Rube Goldberg."
It seems reasonable to assume that anyone who walks through the campus to view sculptures that are nestled between buildings, or next to well-traveled paths, would prefer not to be rained on. But Chandler pointed out that to experience the range of sensations "Rainspouts" evoke, viewers need to observe them during a rainstorm. "With a storm raging outside, preferably with thunder and lighting, the viewer hears a cacophony of sounds and the water spills and gushes through and over the contraptions that Lee created. It’s a delightful experience."
Located on the Greylock Quad, the steel sculpture "Succoth," was created by sculptor Isaac Witkin (1936-2006). Born in South Africa, Witkin emigrated to England when he was 21 and trained as an artist. In 1965 he moved to the United States, where he was an artist in residence at Bennington College. He became an American citizen in 1975.
Witkin began exhibiting his work when he was 28; now his work is part of collections in the United States and abroad.
"Succoth" was a gift of Jacques and Donatella Lennon, collectors who have given several works of art to Williams College.
As for the title of Witkin’s sculpture on the Williams campus, Robert Scherr, Jewish Chaplin for the college, explained, "Succoth is the plural form of sukka (booth). A sukka is a temporary structure with two meanings - reminder of the Israelites in their 40 years of wandering in the desert after they left Egypt, and of the harvest season."
This year the Jewish Holiday Succoth, Feast of Booths, was observed on Sept. 19 through 26. "At the college’s Jewish Religious Center students build a sukka every year with branches as a reminder of the season. They eat and spend time in the sukka, like New Englanders spend time outside to enjoy the fall," said Scherr. "It’s a way to spiritually enjoy the beauty of the fall."
John Baker, Artistic Producing Associate at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, found his interest in the sculpture "Succoth" sparked this summer when the sculpture was completely restored to its original state.
"When Williamstown Theatre Festival relocates to the Berkshires each summer, our team takes over the Greylock Quad section of Williams College," Baker wrote in a communication posted on the Williams College Museum of Art Blog. "(’Succoth’s’) camouflage-like coloring allows it to blend into the landscape. When you get used to a particular landscape, you sometimes take for granted the beautiful things around you. Watching the conservation team restore Succoth from my office window reminded me to slow down and appreciate the beautiful things in my life that I pass by every day."