Artist: Ron Fondaw, American
Title: Vertical Loop, 2003
Media: Fiberglass, LEDs, steel, neon
Dimensions: 33’ h., 5’ diameter
Location: Pageant Walkway
Pedestrians stroll the Pageant Walkway while overhead, atop totem poles, an artist’s palette — a ballet slipper, a book and a guitar — point downwind, each a working weather vane that corresponds to one of four arts: dance, literature, music and visual art.
It’s a larger-than-life balancing act. A soccer ball, a fanciful teapot, a chicken roosting in a basket and finally an enormous ice cream cone tower above a huge jack-o-lantern. An ancient jug and an African inspired-mask top a five-foot baseball. Shouldering a frothy mug, a giant tree stump bears the weight of an overgrown pear and a blue head with Harley-Davidson flames for hair. At night, neon light glows from within the shapes while LED lights inside each of the top pieces punctuate the dark.
This installation is titled Vertical Loop, a series of seven 33-foot-high sculptures, each composed of colorful three-dimensional fiberglass objects designed to reflect the dynamic commercial district known as the Delmar Loop.
The artist worked out his own process for engineering this large site-specific piece of art. First he carved the separate parts out of clay, next he applied a layer of special fiberglass compound over the carving to give the surface the same shape and texture as the clay form. For the third step, he used water to wash the unfired clay out of the fiberglass shell. Finally, the separate parts were assembled on their poles and painted with epoxy paint used to paint automobiles.
Ron Fondaw is an internationally exhibited artist and professor of art at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim fellowship.
LOOKING AT ART
- List the various items displayed on the poles in Vertical Loop. Identify what aspects of Loop culture you think they represent.
- As a class, discuss the role color plays in this piece. Would it hold together visually without color? Explain.
- As a class, discuss the ways the artist’s choice of objects reflects the culture of the Delmar Loop neighborhood. Use specific examples.
- Choose one of the arts (literature, music, dance or visual arts) represented in Vertical Loop and, by exploring the neighborhood, tell how that particular art form is exemplified in the Loop.
- Literature is one of the arts represented in this piece. Research the elements of a traditional fairy tale. Read several of them and discuss as a class.
- Choose one of the poles composed of at least four objects and write a fairy tale that incorporates those objects.
SCIENCE, MATH AND TECHNOLOGY
- Research various ways fiberglass is used in industry as well as its environmental history.
- There are four working weather vanes in Vertical Loop. Research the basic mechanics involved in constructing wind devices like these and design and build a model. Extension: build a working weather vane.
- The artist says that the guitar represented is that of Chuck Berry. Who is Chuck Berry and what is his role in the history of rock and roll? Listen to his music and, if possible, go to Blueberry Hill in the Loop and hear him perform live.
- Dance is another art form represented in the sculpture by a ballet slipper. Attend a student performance at COCA in the Loop.
- Each member of the class design a pole incorporating objects and images that represent your school. Use color in your design.
- Construct the poles in three dimensions. Build an armature, cover with papier-mâché, then paint the poles and display as a group in the school lobby or cafeteria.