Jessica StockholderMaking Way

Public Art Installation
Carnegie Mellon University / Alan Magee Scaife Hall
13 Sept 2023
Visitors to Carnegie Mellon University’s new Alan Magee Scaife Hall, home to its Department of Mechanical Engineering(opens in new window), will be greeted by a new piece of public art amid the building’s classrooms, labs, offices and collaborative spaces.
“Making Way” by Jessica Stockholder will enthrall some visitors by disrupting their perceptions of physical building confines through its use of vibrant colors, translucency, light and familiar objects that intersect structural elements. For others, the experience will be subtler: The creative process was heavily influenced by an intentional vision to fully integrate art into Scaife Hall’s design and construction, as well as a highly collaborative partnership between Stockholder and its architects, Kieran Timberlake.
“I hope that the work is there to engage people in their own ways,” said Stockholder, a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. “I imagine that some people won’t even notice the work, and some will spend a lot of time with it. It will be a different experience for those who work in the building, who cohabitate with it throughout the seasons. I look forward to hearing from people, especially people who live with the work over time.”
In her artist’s statement, Stockholder offered this description, “The artwork sits both inside and outside, supported and contained by the building’s structure and the landscape design. The artwork does not stay within the lines. It slips in and out of the forms established by the site and opens up a space for imagining the many pathways open to us within any structure or system.”
Before entering Scaife Hall, visitors will experience a highway-scale light pole and bollards that have been transformed with unexpected colors. Additional altered light poles greet visitors inside on the ground floor, including one that cuts through three of the building’s floors. The lamps cast their own light but also interact with the shifting light from the sun. Visitors then encounter translucent-colored films that rest on top of the exterior glass, modifying the view inside and outside the building while also casting different colors onto the building’s surfaces. The four-story wall behind the grand stairwell, surfaced with various oranges, pinks, reds and greens, together with some colored glass panels in the guardrails, interact with all that comes before.
“My piece kind of wafts through the building. It proposes boundaries that are distinct from those established by the architecture; the two hover together,” Stockholder said. “That experience — a noticing of one set of assumptions, an intersection, a blur between different conventions — can act as a metaphor for an openness in thinking processes.”
An internationally acclaimed artist, Stockholder has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Lucelia Artist Award from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 2018 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Her work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Whitney Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; MoCA LA; SF MoMA; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The British Museum, London; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Learn more about
  • Tom Little
  • Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

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