Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fun with Campus "Art"

Our university does not have a formal art program and, boy, does it show! The university’s statues and buildings rarely move beyond the obvious. I don’t want to say these artists lacked imagination, but their work makes it seem like Salvador Dali inspired Soviet Realism. Nothing abstract could possibly touch our campus grounds. Instead, the university regents feel that art should have a clear meaning.

What intrigues me about many of these pieces, though, is their subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) homoerotic elements. Or, maybe as a friend often accuses me, “I just like to take the rubber raft down to smut town.” It is true that my sense of humor is stuck at a sixth-grade level.

Still, given that our university has a notorious reputation of being homophobic (usually in the top five universities across the nation “where alternative lifestyles are not an alternative”), I am surprised that they would allow any piece that would offer such obvious jokes. GayProf, by the way, likes to take advantage of the obvious.

So, dear readers, let me take you on a tour of campus art in honor of "National Coming Out Day." Not only will we look at the homoerotic, we will also see the simply bizarre.

    Guy with Big Pole

    I am sure that “Guy with Big Pole” is not the real name of this piece. It just seems to work for me.

    One has to wonder about the imagery. Some artist surely must have had to sell this piece. How did he describe it? “So,” he must have told the board of regents, “I will have a muscle-bound man in tight clothing struggling to wrap chains around his giant pole. It will signify man’s aggressive struggle to contain the power of his tall, erupting pipe.”

    Yes, I know, anything longer than wide is always being called “phallic.” Come on, though! Are they kidding me? If the university retires this piece I am going to open a leather bar with this man as the central attraction.

    Man with His Dog

    Here we have a realist image of a young man, after a busy day of work. Not homoerotic per se, but you know what they say about a single man with his dog. I can’t say for sure he is cruising. But can you say positively that he is not using his dog as bait in the local park?

    Perhaps it is an homage to Kevin Spacey’s “walking his dog incident.” You know, when he was mugged by some rough trade hooligans.

    Naked Man of Engineering

    I am not prudish – Hell, I like to look at a man’s penis. What offends me about this piece is his sad Brady perm.

    I am just curious, though, why the university decided that the plaque that greets visitors to the Engineering building should be nude and anatomically correct. They even made him circumcised (Now that is attention to detail!). For a medical school, a naked man makes good sense. A life science building? Of course, I can understand this. How many engineers, though, deal with the nude, male form? Perhaps they were jumping on the heady days of the Voyager exploratory space craft.

    For some reason, I am the only one who ever notices this image. . .

    Oil for Education

    This does not really fit my homoerotic theme, but I had to toss it in anyway. When I first saw this, I thought it was a complex satire of the state’s exploitation of natural resources. While not great, I thought it was a piece of art that at least showed some critical thinking.

    It turns out, though, it is just a way the university makes some extra cash. Pumping the ground dry means more money for football. Good for us!

    The “Bum” Building

    Perhaps it is just me, but I only think of bum as either 1)a cute reference to one’s ass (e.g. “That guy has a nice bum!”) or 2)an ill-chosen reference to someone who is economically destitute (e. g. “That bum is out of money”). Apparently, however, “Bum” was a nickname of some student who has now given the university tons of money. I wonder, though, what he did to earn his reputation. If he can afford a building, he is not economically destitute...

    Perhaps the "Bum" building should hook up with:

    The Gla$$cock Building

    The Gla$$cock Building houses my office. When I first arrived here, this building’s name was the “History Building.” It turns out, though, that Mr. History did not have any money to give the university. Mr.Gla$$cock, in contrast, gave our university millions of dollars, thus getting a building named for him.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for Mr. Gla$$cock. His generosity has given the humanities at this university a desperately needed boost. I also know that he must have heard all the jokes imaginable about his name at this point.

    Still, it is unnerving working in a building named after a rejected Austin-Powers’ villain.


CLL Canuck said...

Regarding the male form ouside the engineering building? I feel the need to point out the image not only has the Greg Brady power perm, but also has a major case of 'jazz hands'. BTW, the official explanation of guy with pole:

Rosie Sandifer (1946- )
The Roughneck, 1991
This life-like bronze sculpture depicting an oil field worker includes the actual chain used to control the 20-foot tall drill pipe and tri-cone rotary drill bit. A gift of Mrs. Lady with Moneys.

Two chicks are responsible for bringing corn-fed realism to campus. Who knew?

D. said...

If the university retires this piece I am going to open a leather bar with this man as the central attraction.

LOL!! I am so there!

Well, I majored in graphic design and art history, so I've seen (and studied) more than my fair share of awful public "art" installations and they never seem to get any better no matter what city you're in. My favorite was at the airport in Little Rock, Ar., where in front of the main terminal sits a Godzilla-sized bronze hog, which was later crudely painted red. Razorbacks and all, I guess. Airports are a gold mine for this crap - er, sorry, "art".

GayProf said...


It is true about airports! I can think of two cases. At the Houston Intercontinental Airport there is a bronze statue of Daddy Bush in an action pose. His tie is flying behind him, he has his coat jauntily tossed over his shoulder. Basically, it sounds the same as the Little Rock hog.

Second, when I was in grad school, the small commuter airport had an “abstract” piece. Tragically, it had an uncanny resemblance to an airplane crashing down in flames.

Will said...

Well, he's inspired by da Vinci's perfectly proportioned man drawing, and da Vinci was a fairly accomplished engineer (and gay into the bargain). Maybe that's why he's there. But he would be much better off with the hair Leonardo gave him.

By the way, the Leonardo drawing is tattooed onto my back.

GayProf said...


Thanks for commenting – Yes, I imagine they were inspired by the da Vinci sketch. Something went horribly wrong from inspiration to implementation, though. . .

I think da Vinci would cry if he saw this plaque. I know I do.