"It's just a single wave"

For more than twenty years, a large, faded maroon sculpture has stood in the lush green patch of grass between the Administration Building and White Hall. Different people see different things in the work of art. To some it looks like a shark's tooth. Others imagine a billowing ship's sail. And over the years, students have taken to referring to it as "The Iron Brassiere."

The metal sculpture is hollow-a rap on its surface produces a deep, gong-like sound. The weathered surface is beginning to show its age; the paint has blistered in several places, and rust has begun to form on the bare spots. The piece is more than six feet tall, and it's mounted on a large base. It is neither signed, nor is a title inscribed anywhere on it, which is perhaps why so many have come up with their own monikers for it.

According to Dooley's Book: A Guide to the Emory University Campus, edited by the late George P. Cuttino, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Medieval History, the sculpture's actual name is The Wave. The work was created by artist Jim Clover and is on long-term loan from the Heath Gallery in Atlanta. Cuttino's hypothesis is that it "symbolizes in a way the transition from the marble to the concrete part of the campus."

Clark Poling, chairman of the Department of Art History, says The Wave "represents a kind of extension of minimalism, a response to minimalism making a natural reference to a wave, but in an abstract way. I think it's a nice piece. It's not a great piece of contemporary art, but it's well thought out and nicely designed. I think it enlivens that space quite well."

The Wave may soon have some artistic company at Emory. Poling says there is an collaborative effort underway by the Michael C. Carlos Museum, the Department of Art History, and President William M. Chace to bring some distinguished works of contemporary or post-World War II sculpture to campus.

"We think that's important," says Poling. "It would be nice to have well-chosen sculptures at key points on the campus, and I think that will work very well with the new master plan."

What does the artist himself have to say about his creation? When contacted, the Heath Gallery did not know Clover's whereabouts, but Atlanta's Bureau of Cultural Affairs did; they had tracked him down as part of a project called "Save Our Sculpture." Clover is alive and well and still creating art, albeit a very different kind. He owns a couple of tattoo parlors, both called Spectrum, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Clover doesn't remember exactly when he made The Wave but says it was probably about thirty years ago. He says it is constructed of welded steel and took him a couple of weeks to put it together. Clover admits there really isn't any kind of symbolic mystery to the piece.

"It's just a single wave," he says.--J.D.T.

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