Hidden San Diego – UCSD Bear Sculpture

It’s hard to imagine that something 24 feet high and weighing 180 tons could qualify as “hidden” in San Diego, but this one does. In fact, the “Bear” sculpture by Tim Hawkinson is known to UCSD students, faculty and staff who frequent the Academic Courtyard between the engineering and telecommunications buildings on campus. But it’s doubtful many others in San Diego have any awareness of this unique and “cuddly” piece art. The sculpture is part of UCSD’s Stuart Collection.

“Bear” very well might be one of the most whimsical sculptures ever made from boulders. And a big reason is how Hawkinson was able to position the massive rocks so that it makes the emotional connection that virtually everyone has had with a favorite stuffed teddy bear.

From the description on the Stuart Collection site:

“On the one hand, the sculpture is massive, permanent, thoroughly engineered. At the same time, it has a form (a toy bear) that one knows to be soft and cozy – a form that one associates with childhood, play, and security. The bear can be seen framed through the trees lining the paths that lead to the Academic Courtyard. As you get closer, you see the mass, the monumentality and the stone surfaces. It becomes immense, especially in the context of the scale of a toy. The rounded, ancient, and weathered natural granite contrasts with the high-tech, anodized, and highly manufactured surfaces of the surrounding buildings. The notion of a bear in this world is surprising and provocative. This Bear has an astonishing and memorable presence.”

Commissioned in 2002, the Bear was completed in 2005. The sculpture looks simple but was a sophisticated transportation and engineering feat. The process of placing and securing the boulders together was complex and unusual – actually unknown – in the construction world.

Built of eight, uncarved granite boulders selected by the artist from a Pala quarry 60 miles north of San Diego, the rocks range from big to massive. The largest, which forms the bear’s torso, measures about 16 by 17 feet and weighs in at more than 100 tons.

Powerful trucks delivered the rocks, and cranes began hoisting them in place. The rocks are held in place by 27 6-inch steel pins, with an even larger pin holding the head onto the torso. Near the end, Hawkinson turned the bear’s head a little to give it more life.

That little touch gave the massive, heavy, and hard creation that touch of whimsy that suddenly turns a pile of rocks into a cuddly stuffed animal.

And that’s how a piece of art can connect with people.

courtesy of:  http://sandiego.about.com/

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