Normanno Wedge I

Located in the Josephine Ford Sculpture Garden on the campus of the Center for Creative Studies at East Kirby and John R in Detroit’s Cultural Center

In about 999, the Normans began an invasion of southern Italy some 67 years before their successful invasion of England.  A great deal has been written—and also forgotten—about the Normans in the Italian peninsula and their two centuries or so of control.  We seldom think of Italy as a Norman land.  Some of the Normans who invaded Italy may have been traveling to the Holy Lands.  By about 1154, the Normans controlled Sicily and much of Italy south of Rome.  There were, at this time, many Greeks in Italy.  A century or so later, the Norman influence waned and Italians gradually reestablished their control of their peninsula.

Why is this linked to the Ford Sculpture garden at East Kirby and John R?  The sculpture that you see memorializes the Norman invasion of Italy.  It is also in the shape of a large wedge.  Sculptors, I believe, seldom use wedges to shape their own works of art, but those who cut the stone for sculptors use wedges so there may be a link there.

There are, to my knowledge, few women who are well-known for their accomplishments as a sculptor.  Beverly Pepper is one of them.  Born in Brooklyn in 1922, she studied at the Pratt Institute in that borough.  She began her career as an art director but, after World War II, became interested in artistic developments in Europe.  She studied in Paris and, I believe, decided to migrate to Rome in 1951.  In the 1960s, she began designing large sculptures in stainless steel.  They were illusionary sculptures, very large and designed to be displayed outside just as the one you see.  Later she began working with cor-tan steel.  Indeed, she may have be the most important sculptor in popularizing the use of cor-tan steel for out-door sculptures.   The United States Steel Company developed Cor-tan, or cortan steel, primarily for constructing the exterior skeletons of buildings.  It does not require painting and, over time, its exposure to air produces an attractive red color similar to that of rust.  You can imagine the cost savings that an architect might enjoy if he or she designed a building with exterior steel that would need no painting.

In the last 30 years or so, cor-tan steel has become quite popular with those sculptures who design sculptures that are intended to remain outside for centuries.

Sculptor: Beverly Popper
Substance: Cor-tan steel
Date of design: 1983
Use in 2001:  Public Sculpture
Photograph:  Ren Farley; May 21, 2011
Description prepared: May, 2011

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