Friday, February 18, 2011

Space for Faiths

Space for Faiths: Stephen De Staebler's Winged Figure is contained in the most recent issue of arts: Arts in Religious and Theological Studies. One of the last major projects of the late Professor Doug Adams, the work is a collection of invited essays on the sculpture that was placed at the center of the GTU library.

The project was completed by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona. The Center for the Arts, Religion and Education (CARE) provided financial support for the publication (it's over a hundred pages).

Originally, the atrium of the library was empty. Richard Peters, the architect who completed the building, had considered at one point a "pendant piece" to hang down in the atrium and play on the theme of light. In 1978, unsolicited, De Staebler had prepared a site plan model to be incorporated at the entrance of the library. This was not realized. He remained in close contact with Jane Dillenberger and Adams. In early 1993, De Staebler felt that the piece he was working on was for the library. He offered to donate the sculpture to the library. The GTU board accepted after a vigorous discussion. Adams with CARE arranged to cover the $60,000 cost of the installation: the sculpture sits on a 24 foot bronze covered plinth with an additional six feet embedded in the bedrock below.

The dedication of the Winged Figure took place on September 18, 1993, at the 30th anniversary of the GTU and the inauguration of the fifth president, Glenn R. Bucher. Doug Adams closed the ceremony with these words:

Stephen De Staebler's sculpture embodies incompleteness (one leg, a partical torso, one arm...) an incompleteness which allows us to remember that we are incomplete. Such rememberance evokes empathy for others. Let our experience of this sculpture WINGED FIGURE increase our empathy for others.

His sculpture does not detail the head for he has learned that we too easily focus on the head and neglect the body. His sculpture draws our attention to our connection to the earth. Let this scuplture increase our care for the body and the earth.

Stephen's work is frontal and evokes a commitment akin to conversation at a dinner table where we face others at length in contrast to cocktail part chatter where we stand at oblique angles to others and avoid engagement. Let this sculpture increase our commitment with others.

The concave wing provides space and suggests a transformation into an as yet unknown form. There is room for our new thoughts and the different thoughts of
others who may dream new dreams. Let this sculpture increase our thoughts and faiths and hopes and dreams unseen.


To see the essays, please view the issue in our current periodicals. For more information on Doug Adams, see the finding aid for his collection and request access to his archives at the library. Archives and Special Collections are open from 8:30 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

Stephen De Staebler installing the Winged Figure, one of the images referenced in Jane Dillenberger's article.