Last month, College of Marin became the home of Renaissance, one of two sculptures by world-renown artist Robert Ellison that are now part of COM’s permanent collection. The 120 x 192 x 210 inch welded steel sculpture was installed in the open area between the Fine Arts Building and Academic Center. Ellison created the painted steel sculpture of giant scissors cutting a ribbon in 1988. Many might remember seeing the sculpture in downtown Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square prior to its removal and relocation in 2011 to the New Leaf Gallery in Sonoma. Renaissance had been on loan to the city by the sculptor as part of the Artwalk program.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Robert Ellison (1946-2012) received his BFA and MFA from Michigan State University and went on to create over three decades of art that has been exhibited in many public, private, corporate, large-scale, and permanently sited commissions. In addition to teaching at College of Marin, he also taught at Michigan State University, Lansing Community College, and the San Francisco Academy of Art. He worked in ceramics prior to creating with steel, but preferred the permanence of steel. In a 2010 newspaper interview with The Press Democrat, Ellison is quoted as saying, “Every sculpture I’ve ever built is still in existence. If I’m going to spend a lot of time and effort making these pieces, I want them to last forever.”
College of Marin received its first sculpture, Bi, as a gift to the Fine Arts Department. Created in 1971, the sculpture was initially displayed in the fall of 1974 at COM’s Fine Arts Gallery when Ellison was a faculty member. It was the first large sculpture Ellison built after moving from Michigan to California and the first sculpture he did not build from Corten Steel. Both Bi and Renaissance are painted, welded steel sculptures. Prior to being installed in front of the College’s Fine Arts Gallery in summer 2014, the piece was on long-term loan to a private residence in Bodega Bay until it was restored for inclusion in The Spirit of Man exhibit.
Fine Arts Gallery Exhibit: Robert Ellison Maquettes
A collection of Ellison’s maquettes will be on display in the Fine Arts Gallery November 23, 2015, through January 28, 2016. The maquettes in the exhibit are a part of a large body of his work donated to become part of the College's permanent collection. Each maquette was carefully constructed to a one inch to one foot scale, and many of the pieces on display were eventually realized as larger pieces.
Fine Arts Instructor Chris West remarked about the insight students and others can gain from viewing the maquettes and how they translate into the full scale works he created. "This body of maquettes provides a unique perspective into Ellison's process and practice. It's an incredibly generous gift from the Ellison family," said West.