At the beginning of every semester, swarms of college students rush in to their new living quarters on campus. Students from all over the world and from every walk of life are mingled together. Activities and sister-brother floors are arranged for the students as they settle in to this new lifestyle. Close living spaces and group activities encourage people to talk and get to know one another. Small talk turns to conversations and conversations turn to bonding and relationships.
This special opportunity, that seems to only appear in college, is highlighted in Christian Petersen’s Conversations. Nestled in the center of a residential area of campus, this sculpture is there for all the students to see and relate to. A long brick ledge is stretched in front of the entrance of Oak-Elm. In three separate sections of the low wall, limestone figures speak of the three types of relationships a college student makes during their time at college: friendships, romantic relationships, and a relationship with one’s self.
The three females at the far left speak of friendship. The girls seem to be hanging out like any college student would. You can imagine the girls are real. Leaning, sitting and lying on the low wall in the sun, as one reads out loud from a book. They are talking and laughing with each other about the book or about the latest gossip. Each female figure has their own book, representing how each person brings what they know and feel to any friendship. Through conversations and spending time together, we learn about each other and teach others about ourselves in return. With these relationships, the college experience is enhanced and the friendships can last a lifetime.
Moving to the middle, these two figures tell romance. The male figure is without a shirt and the female figure is leaning quite close to him, almost leaning her head on his shoulders. That alone was a strong message back in the time the sculpture was made (1947-1955).The way the figures are turned and facing the other side of the wall shows that they want privacy for an intimate moment. Many students come to college and meet someone that they connect with on the intimate level and possible start a long term relationship. These relationships are important because they allow us to grow and learn together, represented by the sculptures leaning over one book. This relationship teaches us to compromise and share our thoughts, feelings and lives with another person. For some this relationship will lead toward marriage.
Lastly at the far right of the wall is a lone figure. She is facing into nothing, as she is thinking and contemplating her future. This sculpture is about the conversation we must have within ourselves. This is the time we have to figure out who we are and who we want to be, and ignore the pressures of what other people want us to be. This is the most important relationship, for you have to be there for yourself no matter what. This figure is holding a rose, not a book like the other figures. This small detail is emphasizing that the learning in this relationship is not external but internal; once it is figured out the person blooms into the person you truly are and are meant to be.
-By Emily Van Nostrand