Four columns, each crafted from stainless steel and bronze, stand diagonally across from one another and gleam as they reflect the sunlight. Gabriel Warren’s outdoor sculpture installation, Piesterion: Diasematon 2, recently acquired by Vanderbilt, is on permanent display near Cohen Memorial Hall, which houses the University’s Fine Arts Gallery and the Departments of History of Art and Classical Studies. Originally it was installed as part of Polar Probings, an exhibit of works by the artist on view last year in the Fine Arts Gallery.
The first artist-in-residence in Antarctica, Warren creates sculptures using natural ice formations as source material. Layered with meaning and references to the condition of the planet, the artist’s works are based on his close observations of the behavior of ice in its many forms. Warren’s work is influenced by his profound interest in the environment and issues of sustainability. This outdoor installation is a response to ice cores extracted in Antarctica. Atmospheric gas bubbles trapped inside ice cores during their formation are represented in the sculpture by bronze plates that bisect the stainless steel columns.
“We were looking for an inaugural piece for the outdoor sculpture space being created adjacent to Cohen so the timing coincided perfectly with Mona Frederick introducing us to the environmental nature of Gabriel Warren’s work,” said Judson Newbern, deputy vice chancellor of facilities and environment at Vanderbilt. “The simplicity and strength in the elements that compose the sculpture work very well in that location.”
Dividing his time between his studio and residence in Rhode Island and his summer home in Nova Scotia near the sea, Warren travels frequently to Antarctica, making his 1999 trip as the recipient of a National Science Foundation “Artists and Writers in Antarctica” grant.
In addition to Warren’s many artistic accomplishments, he also is the son of acclaimed Vanderbilt alumnus Robert Penn Warren. Describing Vanderbilt’s acquisition of his work as “very heartwarming,” he added, “I’ve never lived in that part of the world, but it is very much a part of who I am. To have a piece as my representative there is kind of a closing of the circle. It is much more than another commission or sale.”