Western art sculptures have rode off an unusual path in Redwood Hall. Since January 31st this year, CSUN has displayed several bronze statues by renowned Western artist Harry Jackson, a donation from Washington Mutual.
But instead of appreciating the art and history behind the statues, visitors are more interested in finding out why they’re there.
The gallery is located in proximity to the Redwood Hall lobby, where approximately 30,000 people pass by annually when attending sports events. The collection consists of 30 bronze statues sculpted by Harry Jackson on the theme of the American West. It also features statues of John Wayne, the famous Western movie icon.
The donation came from Washington Mutual’s new facility in Chatsworth.
“When a business building is built, the company has to do a public art in (donation) compliance with the city’s statute,” said Gailya Brown, director of University Advancement.
“I think it’s pointless to have these statues in this hall,” said Kamesha Neighbors, senior Kinesiology major. “These statues belong more in the history department.”
Redwood Hall is home to CSUN’s physical education and kinesiology departments, as well as the Matador sports teams. Neighbors said the statues have no relevance to what the departments represent.
Students would have appreciated the donation more if it pertained to scholarships or awards, said Beatriz Gill, also a senior kinesiology major, who never gave interest to the displays.
“I wish the displays served a better purpose,” Gill said. “It’s pointless being here.”
Dr. Michael Ward, a professor specializing in Western History, appreciated the art but also questioned their presence in Redwood Hall.
“By the looks of the statues, Jackson is a very abstract expressionist,” said Ward.
The sculptures represents a conservative response to the 1960s and 70s depiction of the West, according to Ward. The sculptures depict Native Americans in an old-fashioned way that is contrary to contemporary standards, although this may not have been the artist’s intent, Ward said.
“But it seems a little odd having them in that building,” said Ward. “The sculptures suggest a conqueror’s story and is not about indigenous people, as the Indians were.”
The gallery includes more sculptures of cowboys than of Indians.
In February, the gallery was closed down for two weeks due to maintenance. The reason for the temporary closing had nothing to do with the gallery’s discreet publicity. The fixtures and glass displays securing the statues had to be replaced, Brown said.
One of the reasons the university placed the gallery in Redwood Hall was because of the theme of movement, Brown said. Several displays show cowboys and Indians galloping on horses.
“These sculptures are so full of movement,” Brown said.
Another reason for the placement is that Redwood Hall attracts a lot of people due to sporting events.
“Redwood hall is a very public place,” Brown said.
Harry Jackson is known as one of the finest bronze sculptors of the 21st century, Brown said.
“His admirations of the cowboy life influenced him to create these magnificent sculptures,” Brown said, who described the sculptures as very realistic, vivid and bearing human-like expressions.
“In general, it’s very hard to communicate with students about campus activities,” Brown said about the gallery’s lack of publicity. “When we get gifts like these, there’s not a real sense of ownership with students. I would love to find a way to change that because these gifts are really for them.”