“Swamp Creature Friends” is a commission by the American artist and Washington University alumnus Tom Friedman. It was created in 2016 in conjunction with the renovation of Helen F. Umrath House in Washington University’s South 40 residential area. Friedman is well known for works that make unconventional use of ordinary materials and that play with notions of perception, logic, and humor, often spurring basic questions such as “what is it?” and “where did it come from?” In turn, these questions initiate an ontological inquiry into our relationship to the objects. For this site-specific installation Friedman created three human-scale creatures that stand linked together, the end figures each with one arm extended as if in open invitation for others to join the group. Composed of a single meandering steel rod coated in a glassy, electric-green finish, the interwoven composition morphs from figurative to abstract as viewers move around the work. Along with this sophisticated perceptual conceit, the installation also makes sly reference to the 1950s horror film genre, specifically “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, while simultaneously paying homage to the historical nickname of the grassy field where it is located. It also recalls similar strategies of past works by the artist, such as Loop from 1995, which Friedman created using all the strands from a box of spaghetti that he cooked and then connected together into one form. “Swamp Creature Friends” combines the artist’s interest in networked systems with his exploration of the human figure, which stems in part from his history of self-portraiture dating back to the early 1990s, when he began making abstract figurative sculptures of himself using various materials, including Styrofoam, wood, and even sugar cubes. The interwoven nature of “Swamp Creature Friends” combined with its proximity to residence halls can be seen as a metaphor for the network of social relationships that are part of the college experience. [Art on Campus brochure, 2017]
(American, b. 1965)
- Title Swamp Creature Friends
- Date 2016
- Medium Powder-coated steel
overall | 77 x 102 x 23 in.
- Credit line University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Helen F. Umrath House, 2016
- Object number WU 2016.0008
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