Reflections on Unity

Submitted by Henry Richardson

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Client: Asheville Art Museum

Location: Asheville, NC, United States

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $135,000

Project Team

Artist

Henry Richardson

Richardson Studios, Inc.

Client

Whitney Richardson

Asheville Museum of Art

Overview

Reflections on Unity is the first public art installation on the plaza in front of the newly expanded Asheville Art Museum. The work consists of a six foot diameter, two ton, hand chiseled glass orb on top of an eight ton boulder from a local quarry. Reflections on Unity is created out of layered circles of reconstructed, fractured glass. Each ring of bonded, shattered glass was mathematically calculated to correspond to a correct circumference for each layer, the sum of which forms this hollow crystalline sphere.
I am drawn to glass because of its weight, strength, and qualities of light transmission that evoke various moods. Light both bounces off and passes through the surface, and when transmitted through the sculpture, changes it radically depending on the viewer’s vantage point. My pieces bring light and energy to outdoor environments, never static, always changing in luminosity and radiance as the days and seasons change.

Goals

I am inspired by the concepts of hope, healing, unity and light, of fractured pieces of glass bonded together as a metaphor for a better world. The museum is opposite the controversial Vance Memorial, an obelisk which memorializes Zebulon Vance, a Confederate Colonel, Governor, and US Congressman. For its inaugural public work, the museum has taken the bold step of confronting the monument with Reflections on Unity, a quintessentially modern sculpture that speaks of hope and healing. In this current political climate of dissension and division, the orb is a symbol of how individuals in society can create a common bond. The boulder on which the orb rests is of the same local stone as the monument, creating a conversation, an ongoing exchange, between the museum and Asheville's history.

Process

The museum's curator, Whitney Richardson (no relation), saw my work at the Frost Art Museum in Miami and had the vision to see its relevance for the public plaza in front of the new Asheville museum and opposite the Vance Memorial. There were many moving parts on the path to the finished installation: art handling and transport, selection of the perfect boulder at the quarry, many strong assistants, crane operators, city traffic controllers. This was, in addition to an artistic and conceptual realization, an engineering feat that was perfectly executed!

Additional Information

Reflections on Unity has been embraced by the community and is one of Asheville's most popular selfie spots. Along with the newly reopened Asheville Art Museum, it has become a symbol of a modern Southern city and how art can address the history of a place.