With women’s empowerment fresh off the agenda from Symposium this week, it feels only fitting to make a plug for the lack of female representation around campus – in sculpture and bust form, that is. As of now, (and I could be missing a tiny hidden statue somewhere in Park Region), there are absolutely none. All the statues around campus not only feature men and their understandable involvement with the college, but are placed, like the chocolate man (President Joseph L. Knutson) in the Knutson Campus Center, as trophies.
As a woman, especially one majoring in art, I don’t understand how I am supposed to take this. It feels outdated to only have sculptures around campus portraying men that were presidents of the college at one time. This campus is 60% female, so you’d think there would be some reference to a female scholar across campus. Are the female students supposed to absorb an atmosphere of progress when their own campus doesn’t flaunt its countless intelligent female Cobbers?
I understand there have been males in the presidential seat of the college since it was created, but there is no doubt that diversifying the sculptures and public art around campus to include women is a point of urgency. My personal favorite sculpture, Ole and Lena, standing tall behind Knutson, has both a female and male subject matter. Which is great. But, it is not a stretch to analyze the sculpture, as an art major, and realize its negative traditional connotations. The sculpture, titled “Arvegods” by Raymond Jacobson, was dedicated to the college in the fall of 1979. The embodiment of Ole and Lena is supposed to represent the “inheritance of the college.”
The elements in Jacobson’s sculpture “consist of two copper forms, suggesting the male and female complement connoting a timeless union of caring and vitality. They reflect what the artist considers the special strengths of Concordia’s founders — grace and nobility, self-confidence and commitment, simplicity and directness of purpose.” While I love the concept and the final showcase of such elements, the “connotation of a timeless union” has seemed to abstract the woman in the wrong ways.
The abstract human forms are just that, abstract, yet it is blatantly obvious which is the female and which is the male. The female is hunched over or noticeably shorter, a statement when placed next to a male representation that is standing straight and tall. In addition to this, the female representation is curvy and seems to symbolize the stereotypical physical connotations of a woman, and by placing emphasis on the physical connotations continues the narrative of women as objects. The main curve on Lena is what appears to reference a belly, and that her role in the context of the sculpture having her purpose be synonymous with pregnancy. While many students do not dissect the sculpture in this way when casually walking by, the constant environmental cues continue the narrative of women being inferior. With a lack of female representation on campus in the immortalizing sculptures around campus having Ole and Lena be the only reference to a woman is insulting and downright traditional.
I understand that no bad intentions were fostered in placing monuments of past presidents around campus but it’s no coincidence. Male presidents, male sculptures, male dorm names and three out of four deans of the college are male. Twenty-six out of twenty-nine secretary positions on campus are filled by females. These statistics are not a coincidence and continue to inform our youth about their position in the world. The physical sculptures around campus remind me of my battle as a woman in the intellectual world and I feel discouraged that even the “progressive” Concordia bubble I call my home is still showing the woman as inferior both in art and in statistics.