FUNAMBULIST (RED VELUM)
JOHN VAN ALSTINE
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
The multi level title of this monumental John Van Alstine sculpture reflects the artist’s conceptual framework for this piece. Funambulist first makes reference to a tightrope walker. Emphasized through the title it is witnessed in the artwork by way of the sculpture's dynamic, horizontal "balanced baton" and poised positioning of the sculpture's overall shape. It suggests great physical balance and agility bringing to mind a circus performer. The term also and perhaps more poignantly, refers to metal agility. It is precisely the union of these concepts; the formal and conceptual, that creates the metaphor emphasizing the balancing act students have to perform as they navigate through this very important and formative time in their lives.
The last part of the title "red velum" comes from Latin where "velum" means "sail" and refers to the large, bellowing, "sail like" red element that dramatically animates the sculpture. This piece exhibits a great sense of balance and choreography and combined with its association to the sail, a form magnificently shaped by the ephemeral forces of the wind, sets up a juxtaposition between the heaviness of steel and the fleeting forces of the wind, creating a compelling visual and intellectual irony.