Rumor Has It
Viewers come face to face with public art
When passersby see the three-story-high acrylic painting on the façade of the Fine Arts Center, they often wonder aloud: what, exactly, is it? A horse? A pony? An upside-down butterfly?
That questioning is part of the deliberate mystery of Just a Rumor. Reflected in the campus pond, the upside-down portrait produces a mirror image of a man with weathered features. His identity remains a mystery.
New Hampshire-based artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned by the University Gallery to create the painting while the gallery is closed for renovation this fall. All along, Schuleit has been interested in the ephemeral quality of the project, which will be removed this winter. “What’s on the wall is an abstract-seeming painting, not an image,” she says. And the water will determine the result: “If ducks swim across the reflection, or, if it rains, there’ll be no face,” says Schuleit.
At age 32 Schuleit became one of the youngest MacArthur “genius” prizewinners in 2006. Her large-scale installations revolve around the archaeology and remembrance of public sites and abandoned spaces. Pioneer Valley residents may recall Habeas Corpus, Schuleit’s memorable 2000 sound installation in the former Northampton State Hospital.
Her other major public art works include Bloom (2003), in which she filled the Massachusetts Mental Health Center with 28,000 flowers.Just a Rumor combines Schuleit’s studio practice of painting with her experience of site-specific art in a simple, but idiosyncratic way. Says Schuleit, “I had to learn to drive the rented crane, to work on high.” Schuleit will be on campus this fall as an artist in residence, interacting with students.