Anna Hepler’s blank canvas was air.
Instead of paint and brush, the Maine artist’s tools were black circular disks, some 2,000 of them roughly 2" in diameter, and about 5,000 aluminum rods. It took a week to bind the metals together to create “Intricate Universe” the new sculpture now on display in the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.
It hangs suspended from the fir ceiling in the common space on the school’s ground floor. At its thickest point, “Intricate Universe” measures at about 10 feet. It’s nearly 40 feet long. Hepler described the installation process as a kind of choreography that she composed as she went along. Picture a cylinder of Tinker Toys emptied out and waiting to take shape.
“I don’t have much of a strategy, I just have all the pieces,” Hepler said during a pause in the installation process that took place during spring break. “I want it to have a sense of movement, not something that is just static in space.”
“Intricate Universe” is the result of Hepler’s desire to interpret the timeless beauty and grace of a flock of starlings. It’s an idea that has been marinating in her mind for some time, one that she has twice before forged into artist expression. But those sculptures were smaller. Not quite capturing the energy of a flock in flight.
“I love the way birds look in the air. I would see them and find myself thinking, ‘How can I, a lowly person, with all my limitations and foibles, capture that?’” Hepler said. “I came to think that you start with this thing you love, that you think is beautiful, and try to translate it.”
Hepler’s proposal was selected from a pool of 23 artists asked to submit ideas for an aerial sculpture to be displayed in the new business school. She says the piece “emphasizes the interconnectedness of individual elements.”
“It’s meant to kindle spontaneous delight, plays of light, and speculation. It may be considered a visual analogue to the intricate universe of globalized economics and business in which every person, every element, every marginal consideration, is somehow linked and related to every other,” Hepler says. “Perhaps this piece will encourage thinking about our overlapping ecologies, unexpected connections and inevitable interdependence.”
Her connection to UNH comes through horticulture professor J. Raymond Hepler, her grandfather, who taught at the university from 1917 to 1956. Durham is her father’s hometown.
In 2010, Hepler had a solo show at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine, followed by a 2011 solo exhibition at Suyama Space in Seattle, Wash. Her work has been shown at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, the Roswell Museum and Arts Center in New Mexico, the Tate Gallery, in London, the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass., as well as the Center for Maine Contemporary Art.
“Intricate Universe" was assembled onsite during spring break.
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