The statue depicts a little girl sitting on a rock and reading a picture book. There is no plaque or signature indicating a title or artist. Her copper figure is oxidized and corroded and her face is scratched and dirty. The shade from the trees growing nearby conceals her.
Concealed within the Alaska collection of the UAA/APU Consortium Library lies documents. These documents detail an unsolved mystery from two decades ago. They lie in two dusty black binders, rings straining from the weight of information and the passing of time. The volume is known as “The art at the University of Alaska Anchorage: an inventory” by Wanda Seamster.
These volumes contain a complete inventory of every piece of art the University of Alaska has ever acquired, including the artist name, the title of the piece and value of the art. The level of detail varies from entry to entry, some nearly blank.
The statue outside of the UAA campus bookstore is one of many pieces with the title and artist marked as “unidentified.” Bookstore visitors inevitably walk by the statue outside or may view it through the window.
Pre-nursing student Angelina Odegaard spends many hours at the campus bookstore working as a barista and cashier. Although she is busy with her two jobs, she still took note of the statue outside.
“I forgot about the sitting statue because it’s winter and it’s covered with snow,” Odegaard said. “But I have seen it.”
Bookstore cashier Nicholas Schied is finishing his freshman year as a professional piloting major. He works at the bookstore four days a week and often goes to the Student Union.
“I didn’t even know there was a statue outside,” Schied said. “I just sort of come in and out without looking around a whole lot.”
Natural sciences student Christian Whittwer has been employed as a barista at the university bookstore for three years. He is very familiar with the bookstore, but not the statue outside.
“I barely pay attention to [the statue],” Wittwer said. “I don’t know too much about it. I just walk by it.”
Where does this leave this untitled statue hidden in the foliage and the countless other mystery artworks acquired by the university? With the invention of technology, we are redefining things once thought to be lost.
In the app Pokémon Go, users have given the untitled statue their own name, “Picture Book.” The records of the past may be lost, but we can give this unclaimed art new meaning in the present.
Have you seen art at UAA you want to know more about? Contact Robert Gant at [email protected]