The Sculpture Deathmatch (copyright) has become an academic tradition at Lander University. Each spring we set aside a Saturday and choose two teams of sculptors to do battle. Each team has 12 hours to design, create and install a public sculpture on campus. We begin at 9:00 am and the teams must have their sculptures installed by 9:00 pm. We invite everyone to come out and hang with us during the day and we have food and snacks and sculpture giveaways.
9:00 am is very early for college students who have given up a day of rest to participate in the Deathmatch. For their sacrifice they are given a healthy dose of sugars and carbs to get the day started.
This year's teams were divided by age and experience. Team Srotplucs (sculptors spelled backwards) is on the left and they are the underclassmen spanning from freshmen to juniors. Team Firesquad is on the right and they are the seniors, most of them with several sculpture classes of experience.
Before the sun was even out on the sculpture patio, the teams were scavenging their recycled sculptural materials and developing their plans.
We hoisted the official Sculpture Deathmatch flag from Singletary's window.
This year both teams came up with plans fairly quickly and made the most of their morning gathering materials and beginning work on their armatures. Lunch time seemed to come quickly and the $75 worth of pizzas were devoured quickly.
Spencer is a technical freshman and he got to learn how to weld and use the cutting torch.
Bolt got another shot at Deathmatch fame with her second consecutive Deathmatch.
And Buttermilk got to weld again!
Rashaad was back in his element in the sculpture room. He's been away in ceramics too long.
Braden and Metal Megan put on their problem solving faces as they worked out how to make steel fire.
Slagle, Molly and Riiiiiiicardo came to visit and help. Tons of other supportive students and visitors came as well. Sorry I didn't get photos of all of them.
So these were the teams: Team Firesquad above. Braden, Drinkwater, Metal Megan, Erica, Calliham,'Shaad and Oscar (see the team portrait below).
Team Srotplucs: Spencer, Dara, Buttermilk, Bolt, Mini Me and Molly.
And if you make weird faces like that when I take your team photos, you deserve to have them drawn like that in the official team portrait. I drew Oscar from memory so he looks a little cartoonish.
As the afternoon progressed, the sculptures became more interesting.
These details can get lost in the larger images.
As the shadows grew very long, Team Firesquad carried all their pieces to their installation site and prepared to dig anchor holes.
A couple of hours later, darkness loomed over the installation of Team Srotplucs's sculpture.
After a full 12 hours of sculpting, both teams were still upright, but very, very tired. We gathered for a quick cleanup and headed out to LaHa for a late dinner. Riiiiiicardo's family took good care of us there.
It cannot be overstated just how difficult it is to participate in a Deathmatch. It also cannot be overstated just how cool it is that a college student would want to give up a Saturday and put themselves through such a difficult experience. Many of them asked off of work. All of them sacrificed sleep and fun with their friends to do this. And going to school on a Saturday? Who does that?
Team Firesquad's finished sculpture titled "Journey'.
Team Srotplucs' finished sculpture titled "Untitled"
The Monday following the Deathmatch, voting began by paper ballot. Anyone who wanted to vote could cast their approval to their favorite sculpture. Voting ended on Friday and the winning team was announced. And the winner was......
Each team member gets to sign the Sculpture Deathmatch flag and they get to bask in their underdog victory for an entire year.
This victory was particularly sweet for Team Srotplucs. The sculpture went up in the dark and when students returned to campus in the light of day, some were apparently surprised by the rusty sculpture made of recycled materials. I was told there was some chatter on one of those anonymous social media things complaining about the sculpture and essentially saying it was ugly. Of course, it would be the height of folly to try to please everyone, but it seems that this sculpture was knocking lightly against the boundaries of "what is art?". One of the goals of this Team was to find beauty in what was literally a pile of scrap metal and trash. To take that beauty and to shine a light on it for others to contemplate. And it's perfectly fine if there are those who are not able to see past the rust and reclaimed materials. The beauty is still there for those who wish to find it.
Enough voters found it and were so moved to support the sculpture and it's expression of uncommon beauty. It doesn't get more contemporary art than that!