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Gifts of Art Take Root at Moravian College

Moravian acquires works by renowned sculptor Steve Tobin

TobinBethlehem, Pa., November 21, 2011--Moravian College has recently acquired three new sculptures by renowned sculptor Steve Tobin. Two smaller pieces from his Steelroots series have been installed outdoors near Payne Gallery as part of the Recent Acquisitions exhibition, which includes paintings and sculptures by local artists, Joseph Barrett, Walter Baum, Renzo Faggiolo, Roy Nuse and Steve Tobin. The gift of this remarkable art work comes from alumni Joann M. Trotsky '64 in honor of her parents Alexander and Elizabeth Trotsky.

The third, a massive, bright orange piece, was installed last week outside the Priscilla Payne Hurd Academic Complex (PPHAC) on Moravian's north campus. (See photos of the installation on Moravian's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/MoravianCollege.)

The flowing sculpture was created out of recycled steel and is named Moravian III: A Symbol of Potential and Growth. The anthropomorphic piece resembles two figures embracing and has a familiar feel when viewed for the first time, that grows more so over time. Tobin calls it "a romantic family embrace," and loves the steel precisely because the surface is marked and bent in odd shapes here and there, much as a human is imperfect.

"I intentionally leave the markings, and create the buckling, to give it that character," says Tobin who is renowned for his naturalistic approach to sculpting.

Born in Philadelphia, Tobin has traveled the world, working and teaching, and now is settled in Quakertown. One of his most famous works is Trinity Root, a huge (18-feet by 25-feet) cast bronze memorial created from the roots of an old sycamore tree from the churchyard of St. Paul's Chapel in lower Manhattan that was destroyed by falling debris on September 11, 2001. Today, the piece graces the courtyard of Trinity Church, near the site of the former World Trade Center towers.

Tobin feels the piece speaks to the horror and loss of that day and says, "The patina is made of the DNA and the dirt from Ground Zero, so when you touch the piece, you're touching the event of 9/11."

Tobin doesn't always create such large works, in fact, finding the proper scale for an individual piece is crucial to its success. He has been known to destroy a piece that is either too large or too small and rework it to the size appropriate for its message. Working in reclaimed materials excites him and he finds fulfillment in finding new life out of the histories of used materials.

Moravian III comprises two figures in an embrace, but also two Asian calligraphy symbols meaning "mankind" and "great" that are visible within the sculpture, itself, and also as shadows on the ground when the sunlight hits it just right.

According to Gary Carney, vice president for institutional advancement, who chose the site, the two figures of the sculpture conceptually integrate the two adjacent buildings, PPHAC and Collier Science building. Sited directly on the concrete circle in the patio designed to show such a merger, it seemed the perfect spot. "It's wonderful to have public art at the college, out where it should be," he said.

Joanne Trotsky was present at the installation and was thrilled with this opportunity to bring Tobin's work to the north campus as well. "This is the perfect location because of the programs held here; it's a hub of activity," she said.

Pieces in the Steelroots series are created in sections from pre-bent steel industrial tubing of various dimensions. Working with steel, especially in the larger sculptures, is demanding, requiring heavy machinery and crews of workers.

Tobin's sculptures are visible any time. The other art work in the Recent Acquisitions exhibition can be viewed through January 15, 2012 at the Payne Gallery, open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays when the College is in session. The gallery is located on the Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus at the corner of Main and Church Streets in Historic Bethlehem. Gallery admission and parking are free.

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Moravian partners with students to build a strong foundation for their future. Visit the College's Web site at www.moravian.edu.