Dramatic Sculpture Complements Classroom Text

A sculpture exhibition at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College will enter into dialogue with a flagship first-year course at Ursinus. “Make a statue of my friend:” Presenting Enkidu, Re-presenting the Epic of Gilgamesh, Sculpture by Joe Mooney will be shown in the Main Gallery Aug. 29 through Dec. 11.

Wounded Enkidu

Joe Mooney, Wounded Enkidu, steel and pine, 34 x 76 x 38”, courtesy of the artist)

A reception for student and faculty participating in the course, The Common Intellectual Experience (CIE), will be held Aug. 31. A reception in honor of the artist will take place Sunday Sept. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m.

In the exhibition “Make a statue of my friend:” Presenting Enkidu, Re-presenting the Epic of Gilgamesh, Philadelphia sculptor Joe Mooney interprets the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the book that all incoming Ursinus students read over the summer and discuss during their first Common Intellectual Experience (CIE) class. The two-semester CIE course explores questions such as “What does it mean to be human?,” “What is our place in the universe?,” and “How should we live our lives?” through discussion of diverse foundational texts from around the world.

Mooney’s work visualizes the experiences of Gilgamesh’s companion in the story, Enkidu, at signal moments in the narrative.. The artist’s monumental steel and stainless-steel sculptures capture the weight and drama of this story of the ancient Sumerian superhero Gilgamesh who first battled, then befriended and was ultimately transformed by the “uncivilized” and yet strangely civilizing Enkidu.

Just as the Epic of Gilgamesh itself juxtaposes such seemingly conflicting elements as the lure of the “road trip” (in ancient Sumerian  terms) with the yearning to return home, and the grandiose desire for fame and immortality with the intimacy of close friendship, Mooney’s sculptures juxtaposes the power and might of industrial materials with the delicacy and beauty of those materials finely worked and tempered. His use of repeating visual motifs  in the forms and structures that he fabricates evokes in visual terms the verbal narrative signposts of the story itself.

Mooney is a graduate of Villanova University, received his bachelor of fine arts degree from Penn State and his master of fine arts degree from Alfred University. His work appears in a number of museum, university and corporate art collections, including Woodmere Art  Museum, Philadelphia; American University, Washington, D.C.; First Union Bank, Philadelphia; LaSalle University Art Museum, Philadelphia; Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y.; University of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala.; and Blue Cross, Independence Place, Philadelphia. He has had solo shows at various venues, including Woodmere, the James A. Michener Museum.; The State Museum, Harrisburg.; and Villanova and Alfred Universities.

The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College, known for its diverse collection and innovative educational programming, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and  noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and college holidays.  The Museum is accessible to the physically disabled, and admission is free. The Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Exhibitions and programs are funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and annual support from Epps Advertising. — W.G.

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