Seemingly overnight, a new, bright-green sculpture by Yutaka Sone has sprouted on campus. Planted firmly in cement on the grassy bank between the U building and artist Jody Pinto’s running stream, Sone’s giant “Baby Banana Tree” is the latest acquisition for PCC’s sculpture garden. Like some of its neighbors, the new piece appears destined to provoke discussion. It’s not easy to ignore a colorful steel-and-fiberglass sculpture that is 25 feet tall, with patterned leaves spreading out nearly as wide.
Music major Aria Curzon just had to snap a picture for her family. “I think it’s really cool, because it’s just interesting and bright,” she said. “It’s different from everything out here.”
That difference might have been too much for English major Jason Fascio, who said, “It looks amateurish, or like something you’d see at Disney.”
This is not the first time sculptures at PCC have brought out conflicting opinions. Students continue to express strong feelings about Stephan Balkenhol’s “Column Figure,” as assistant professor Deena Capparelli finds when she takes art classes to visit the sculpture garden. “Those are some of the best discussions,” she said. “The last thing you want is people just walking across campus with their heads down.”
Alex Kritselis, dean of visual arts and media studies, agrees. “If everyone was going to be immediately pacified, I’d think we brought the wrong thing,” he said. “This is unlike anything else you’ll find anywhere, a remarkable step in the direction of public art.”
Capparelli likes the idea of PCC having sculpture that challenges popular expectations for public art, including the convention of permanence.
As originally conceived, Sone’s piece was to be covered in rattan. Like parts of a living thing, the woven leaves would sway in the wind, bleaching and weathering with passing seasons.
Yet when Sone’s fabricator, the Guadalajara studio of Jose Noe Suro, built a quarter-scale model earlier this year, it became clear that such leaves would be too heavy, and Sone switched to a fiberglass design. Kritselis believes the new construction will prove lightweight and strong enough to grace our campus for many years, although, “Until the Santa Anas come, it’s hard for us to know.”
PCC’s sculpture garden is actually a second planting for the “Baby Banana Tree.” Kritselis agreed to have the sculpture displayed for two weeks in downtown Guadalajara. “It was national news in Mexico,” Kritselis said. “There’s just something about the presence of a large object that takes you by surprise. I think this will become a favorite sculpture.