An abstract sculpture on the Albany County Courthouse grounds has been nominated for a Wyoming State Historical Society fine arts award.
In June, Laramie artist and University of Wyoming professor emeritus David Reif debuted “The Architecture of Civility,” a laminated plate aluminum structure featuring a series of entwined images, such as a horse head, a house and an automobile. The finished sculpture drew a variety of reactions from the community; some praised the work for its unique, colorful look, while others thought the piece was in poor taste.
This year, the Albany County Historical Society selected Reif’s sculpture as its nominee for the state historical society’s fine arts award.
“We think that his sculpture represents the history of Laramie and (Albany County) really well, especially its focus on agriculture and transportation and construction of houses,” said Jane Nelson, the organization’s awards chair. “And we like the sense of humor and the focus on perspective and we like the use of color.”
The award application, submitted in April, included details about the project’s funding, the selection of Reif as the artist, Reif’s artistic process and the controversy created by the sculpture. The state historical society will make its decision in the summer, Nelson said.
“What is historical about that piece is both the natural environment, so it has a bison and cow and a horse and an eagle and the human built environment,” Nelson said.
Reif said he was “delighted” to receive the nomination.
“I was deeply flattered and humbled by it,” he said. “I greatly appreciate it.”
His work was financed through a $20,000 Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund grant, $5,447 from the Albany County Commission in 2010 and various community donations, including free labor and a free structural assessment.
Reif said he plans to add several plaques in the area around the sculpture: two small plaques asking the public to care for the artwork and one large plaque dedicated to knowledge, imagination, originality and creativity throughout the community.
“I really wanted people engaging in the world and art and their experience — and examining their experience and figuring out, what are the meaning and implications in what they’re seeing and thinking and feeling?” he said.
To encourage that discovery process, Reif purposefully wove a secret into the sculpture’s design — a hidden meaning only visible from a certain vantage point.
“The sculpture invites the idea for the viewer to find for them where that balance is,” he said. “And there’s some clues there, but it’s all in keeping with the idea of the golden mean, the idea of balance between opposites.”
Albany County Commissioner Tim Chesnut said he hoped the nomination would bring more light to the county’s outdoor art.
“How it exemplifies Albany County is very unique,” he said. “And it kind of shows one person’s view of what Albany County is, but at the same time, it brings up a dialogue about art, about what people like or don’t like about art. And I think the best thing about it is how the children love it. The children like to play on it, climb on it, which wasn’t intentional, but something that draws children to art — if you can fall in love with art when you’re a child, that’s going to bring so much more to your life.”