Mysterious sculpture in Peck was a social experiment

Junior scupture major Matt Meyer, of Naperville, Illinois, smiles next to his sculpture in Peck Hall.

A new sculpture in Peck Hall has disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. 

Peck Hall had a new addition for a few days — an abstract sculpture on the main floor. Junior sculpture major Matt Meyer of Naperville, Illinois is the artist behind the sculpture. 

Meyer said the sculpture was performance art, as he hoped to gauge the students’ reactions to art.  

“I wanted to do a performance piece, or a social experiment type thing, where I put a sculpture in Peck for a couple days and see how people react to it … if they look at it, if they just kind of disregard the fact that there’s art there, or what happens, what changes in their life,” Meyer said. 

According to Meyer, students’ reactions changed depending on which side of the building they entered. 

“I noticed that people who came from the side of Peck, they didn’t really look at it, they just kept going about their business. Most of them were on their phones. Then the people who came from the front, some of them stopped and looked, and then kept going. Some people took pictures and stuff like that,” Meyer said. 

All of Meyer’s sculptures share some similarities, due to his artistic process. 

“All of my sculptures are abstract, [and] stem from moments in time in my life. I take pictures of everything I’ve done and I’ll take a certain figure in that picture … so they start out figurative but then they go into abstract,” Meyer said. 

Meyer used two different materials to create the sculpture. 

“It’s made out of rebar. I welded it together and then the back side is [a] steel plate,” Meyer said. 

Meyer also has another sculpture displayed on campus. 

“It’s the giant face. It’s right behind the MUC. It has all the colors and stuff,” Meyer said.  

Senior art and design major Joseph Ovalle of Collinsville, Illinois, said that art students often work on their projects together. 

“It’s like a free-for-all. It’s mostly eight or 10 of us in a room, all helping each other out and and working on our own stuff. It’s really cool,” Ovalle said.

Ovalle shared his thoughts on Meyer’s sculpture in Peck, as well as the role campus administration plays in promoting art on campus. 

“I think it’s interesting. I think the rock in it creates a tension where I would be like ‘Oh, somebody’s gonna take it.’ I really think the administration, I think it’s cool that they let us put sculptures up, [and] I know Rich Walker does a lot. I think it’s really interesting to put something random in a random place,” Ovalle said. 

Ovalle hopes the sculptures on display will have a positive effect on campus by giving students the opportunity to appreciate art. 

“I really hope it just gives people exposure to art and maybe encourages them to go see more. I think access to public art is really important. It’s kind of like entertainment, something people can feed on,” Ovalle said. 

According to Vice Chancellor for Administration Rich Walker, art is just one discipline of student learning the administration strives to encourage in order to benefit the student body.  

“I’ve always seen my role as a partnership with academics, and do whatever I can on the administrative side of the house to support student learning, whether it’s in the arts department, or whatever department,” Walker said. 

Walker said the art displays throughout campus are just one of the great things SIUE has to offer. 

“Another great thing about our campus is the sort of museum without walls concept, so that our museum collection is out and about on campus, both indoors and outdoors and all the buildings,” Walker said.  

Walker also said there are a number of ways for students to learn about SIUE’s art program. 

“We have the museum collection, of course, and they have their own website and their own collection. And then, of course, there’s the department initiative as well. And when I say the Art and Design department, of course they’ve got multiple disciplines within the department, not just sculptures,” Walker said. “They’ve got some interesting things going on with metals, with painting, drawing, 3-D, ceramics, et cetera.”

Meyer is currently working on a new project for the summer.  

“Right now I’m working on a new sculpture for Bonnaroo, the music festival. I want to be a music festival artist,” Meyer said.  

Students wanting to learn more about the art department can visit https://www.siue.edu/artsandsciences/art/index.shtml. 

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