Monday, August 19, 2013

Celebration Shout Out: The Stuart Collection at UCSD

UCSD Rocks! 

I recently had the joy of returning to my alma mater, the University of California, San Diego, on a wonderful trip with my mom. It was the first time I'd been back since graduation, and it was an amazing adventure filled with old sights, new experiences, delicious food, giant bear hugs (courtesy of Bear by Tim Hawkinson) and an incredible race to the finish. 

The reason this experience merits a Celebration Shout Out is because without a doubt, UCSD celebrates creativity. If the incredible architecture, spirit of learning and independent art scattered across campus weren't enough, the Stuart Collection of art seals the deal. So without further ado, please enjoy a small virtual tour!

These could also be koala catchers.

When I first arrived at UC San Diego, the RAs and tour guides introduced the strange blue creations hanging in the trees above as Giraffe Catchers, installed one fateful day to subdue some runaway giraffes escaped from the San Diego Zoo. While that is a fantastic story I will remember forever, the truth is it's actually an installment of the Stuart Collection called Two Running Violet V Forms by Robert Irwin. It seems the giraffes are safe... for now.

You can say that again!

One of my personal favorites from the Stuart Collection is the installment at the base of Geisel library (a bit of a masterpiece all its own). Read/Write/Think/Dream by John Baldessari encompasses the facade and foyer of UCSD's main library with colored door panels, giant writing utensil wall art and the encouraging words of the title right above the entrance. As a reader, writer, thinker and dreamer, I highly approve! 


On our way out from Geisel, we followed Snake Path by Alexis Smith, not only a beautiful and poignant piece of art, but also a handy way down to Warren College. Complete with it's own little garden of Eden tucked into the coils halfway down and a massive, stone copy of Milton's Paradise Lost, this path has become a classic thoroughfare at UCSD. While visiting the old fav, we were also treated to a new surprise...

I have a feeling we're not in La Jolla anymore!

Here I thought I knew what's what at UCSD, and yet suddenly - a house on a rooftop! Little did I know, I'd just gotten my first glimpse of Do Ho Suh's Fallen Star, the newest addition to the Stuart Collection. Wow, UCSD! You just keep on getting better and better!

Meanwhile at the School of Engineering...

Thanks to some truly epic timing, we were able to visit the tiny, tilted house on the seventh floor, despite showing up on a day without tours. 

Who wouldn't want to lounge at a rooftop garden?

Just as we arrived at the entrance with another mother/daughter pair, Alfonso the caretaker of the Stuart Collection came to unlock the door for general maintenance. Taking pity upon us poor, hapless tourists, he let us all in for a mini tour and even gave us fresh tomatoes from the garden. Thank you, Alfonso!!

Standing up from the couch was a trip... almost literally.

As Alfonso told it, the inspiration behind this off-kilter piece is the unsteady, often unsettling feeling of entering a new phase of life, for instance, when new college students are just starting out. New living space, new culture, new rules and opportunities... all at once it can be quite unbalancing. 

The chandelier must have missed the memo.

Having both the college experience and the chance to stumble around this perception-boggling house, I have to say, the artist did a very good job of getting the point across!

Words, words, words

Another favorite exhibit of mine is Vices and Virtues by Bruce Nauman, seen here by looking out the window of Fallen Star. Since ours was a daytime visit, we couldn't enjoy the full effect of the neon signs glowing intermittently, sometimes overlaid with brilliant effect. Still, seeing it from such a height had quite an impact anyway.

One of these trees is not like the others.

Back on solid ground, you can find another special set of artwork: Trees by Terry Allen. Known across campus as the Singing Tree, Talking Tree and Silent Tree, the first two hide within the eucalyptus grove between Muir College and Price Center, while the last stands sentinel just outside of Geisel. 

Upon our visit, the Talking Tree snubbed us with silence, but after waiting barely a minute, the Singing Tree gave us a lovely serenade. I don't remember all of the song, but two lines stuck out from the rest. "Dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream!" was a good one, and the final line, "Because you're awesome!" Thanks Singing Tree, you're awesome, too!

Speaking of trees...

This final plaque and accompanying courtyard aren't actually a part of the Stuart Collection, but as I passed by and enjoyed them nearly every day during my wonderful time at Muir College of UCSD, I couldn't leave them out now.

For a full list of the art in UC San Diego's Stuart Collection, along with a map and detailed information for each exhibit, check out the official website below. While we only had time to visit a few of our long time favorites and explore one exciting new addition, there are plenty more sights worth seeing and lots more creativity worth celebrating.

Go Tritons!


  1. Love love love the Stuart Collection!!! My Favorite - the house on the Eng. Bldg. roof - ***Fallen Star*** Incredible!

    1. That was pretty awesome! :D Like walking through Wonderland!