UAA | University Art Analysis – When statues become scenery

When art becomes a fixture, does time erode meaning?

In 1999, Bright Bimpong was commissioned to make two statues for Rasmuson Hall. These curious statues seem normal enough at first, but a closer look will reveal startling details like a single high heeled sandal on a man, a laptop with no monitor and several conch shells.

"Transaction" by Bright Bimpong. Photo by Chase Burnett.
“Transaction” by Bright Bimpong. Photo by Chase Burnett.

One statue sits outside of the building, draped in snow, and the other one on the second floor, bathed in sunlight. Together they make up the bronze cast piece entitled “Transaction.”

After two decades of watching students come and go, these statues know many stories, but do the students of UAA know the stories of these statues, or even notice them at all?

The one thing countless students in Rasmuson Hall all have in common is lack of knowledge about “Transaction.”

Freshman Ally Jackson, a business management major, often studies at the tables across from the second-floor statue.

“[The statues] have been around for a while, and I like them,” Jackson said. “I haven’t given [the meaning] too much thought.”

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Ashton Lekites, a sophomore walking to her next class through Rasmuson Hall, initially did not even realize there were statues.

“I think I may have [heard of the statues] but not enough to have an opinion on them,” Lekites said.

Robert Davis, an alumnus visiting Rasmuson Hall, expressed confusion about the existence of a second statue.

“I don’t know where the other [statue] is,” Davis said. “I haven’t looked at them in a long time. I feel like somebody’s sitting on a bench? I forgot.”

Davis remarked on his desire to know what the statues meant. The majority of students who were asked echoed this desire.

According to Bimpong, “Transaction” is about the evolution of trade-offs and culture with the passage of time. Every detail of the statues references trade-offs. The man in the high-heeled sandal represents the sacrifices we make in the pursuit of gender equality. The monitorless laptop displays our evolving worldview with the advent of technology. Conch shells were considered money in parts of Africa up until the 20th century, now traded off for more convenient currency. Bimpong made the largest trade-off of his life when he moved from Ghana to America. He considers this to be his proudest commission.

It has been 20 years, and “Transaction” still has a very relevant meaning to the school of business and public policy. These students made the trade-off of focusing on other things, like studying and schoolwork, instead of the statues. As time goes on, visitors to Rasmuson Hall may not notice “Transaction,” but they demonstrate the artist’s message.

Have you seen art at UAA you want to know more about? Contact Robert Gant at [email protected]