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The Stuart Collection at the University of California in San Diego built and maintains a unique collection of site-specific works by leading artists of our time.
Where in San Diego county can you find a 180-ton teddy bear made out of concrete? Or a crooked house perched precariously on the edge of a seven-story building? How about a eucalyptus tree that recites poetry and music? Sounds like something Alice would find when climbing through the looking glass. But believe it or not, such wonders are spread over the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla. They are just a few of the internationally renowned public artworks in the Stuart Collection, which includes 18 site-specific sculptures commissioned from the leading artists of our time.
Pack a picnic lunch and spend the afternoon exploring the campus - which also includes stunning modern architecture - to discover these surprising and engaging artworks.
Here are some pieces to look for:
This crooked house sits askew on top of the otherwise mundane Jacob's Engineering building. It's the work of Korean artist Do Ho Suh. He arrived in the US in 1991 to study art. He felt lost in a foreign land, which prompted him to explore themes of home and displacement in his work. Take the elevator up to the seventh floor and walk out to find a quaint rooftop garden, which includes a plum tree, a wisteria vine, tomatoes and more. Then enter the little blue cottage. It's a completely disorienting experience to stand in the tiny tilted house. If you can keep your sea legs, you'll witness some incredible views of the surrounding Torrey Pines mesa. The cottage is decorated in the homey style of a great aunt or a grandmother. Lights flicker on at night, as does a TV. Steam, simulating smoke, sometimes rises from the chimney. It's all very cozy, until you remember it's poised to wobble off the building any second! (of course, it's secure, but the sensation is alarming). "Fallen Star" is open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30 to 2:00 PM. Please note, it's best to check the hours before you go.
Fallen Star, 2012
Do Ho Suh
UC San Diego
Artist Tim Hawkinson's "Bear" is one of the most delightful surprises in the Stuart Collection. The bear sits, playful yet majestic, in a campus courtyard between three of the university's engineering buildings. The surprise comes from the scale of the bear and the material used to make it. It's composed of rocks totaling 180 tons. A massive round boulder serves as the bear's torso, while separate boulders form the arms, legs, head and ears. It's a mindboggling feat of engineering because it's not clear how the rocks are secured to create the toy bear shape. Kids regularly play on and around it while adults can be found smiling at its happy contradictions.
UC San Diego
If you hear whispers while walking through the eucalyptus grove by the Geisel Library (a modern sculptural building), you're not going mad. The trees are actually talking to you. Allen, a well-known artist who works across genres, took three eucalyptus trees that had been cut down to make way for new buildings, stripped them of their leaves, and encased them in lead. They were then wired for sound and have been emitting recordings of poetry and music ever since. Together they create a modern enchanted forest.
UC San Diego
Other notable pieces in the Stuart Collection were made by some of the most accomplished artists working today. The doors to the Geisel Library are by conceptual artist John Baldessari. The panels among eucalyptus trees are by San Diego based-artist Robert Irwin, and two large wall clocks with a running news feed in the school's Price Center are by text-based artist Barbara Kruger.
These are just a handful of the pieces in this truly unique sculpture collection. San Diego is full of public art and gorgeous natural vistas, but these sculptures stand out as works that will make you think, laugh, and consider the world in new ways.
UC San Diego
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