Guide puts ‘public’ in art


It’s the rare student or visitor at UC Davis who doesn’t take time to pose for a photo with one of the Eggheads on campus.

But the egg-shaped, giant bronze heads by the longtime faculty member Robert Arneson are only part of the art that can be seen strolling the campus. Art history graduate students Arielle Hardy, Justina Martino, Piper Milton and Brittany Royer have made these pieces even more accessible by creating the first guide to UC Davis’ public art.

Video of UC Davis public art

“We wanted something that would be useful and interesting to a wide audience,” Milton says. “Other than the Eggheads, most people don’t register or engage with the art on campus, and we hope to change that. All of us had an interest in sculpture, space and landscape, so it fulfilled our scholarly goals as well.”

The guide gives insights into very visible artworks like the Eggheads and former art professor William Wiley’s What’s It All Mean gong at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, along with nearly hidden pieces. You can download the guide for more details. At the bottom of this story, learn where the art is located on a campus map the art history group created.

Part of large public art program

Some pieces — the Eggheads and Stone Poem by Steve Gillman — came to campus in the 1990s through the UC Davis Art in Public Places project.

Stone Poem, a Stonehenge-like structure near the Silo, was shown at the university’s Nelson Gallery in early 1989. Later that year, while being stored in Oakland, the work was damaged during the Loma Prieta earthquake. The dozen huge stones were installed on campus a few years later with the damaged pieces made part of the work.

“Even through it’s close to so much foot and bike traffic, it is a contemplative space when you enter the installation,” says Justina Martino. “The pieces are like ruins or the remains of a settlement that people can just come across.”

Tour de force from art department

Bum, Bum, You’ve Been Here Before was created by the late Professor Tio Giambruni in 1967 in the art department’s new foundry. The massive cast bronze and aluminum spent a decade in the Russell Boulevard median and another decade in storage before being installed in its current location on Hutchison Drive across the street from Shields Library.

“It was created as a tour de force of casting both bronze and aluminum and joining them using the new forge,” Milton says. “I was really drawn to it because of the manipulation of materials and its complicated history of being moved around.”


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