Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hidden Campus: The Bride

It’s a green-tinged bronze blob-woman standing in the courtyard next to the Mathey dining hall.

I can tell that it’s a woman, just as one can normally tell a human shadow apart from an animal’s. But this silhouette seems misshapen. The woman’s hair sits like mud, and her face is nearly hidden, staring out like a ghost face trying to scream out from the wall of a haunted mansion.

She has no arms. Unless she’s somehow holding them up underneath the mass on her head.
Otherwise, she lost them in an accident, or were never given any.

I say “given” because next to the pedestal beneath her feet (well, her legs actually melt into a rock that becomes a cube—no feet) there is a plaque;

The artist, Reginald Cotterell Butler was an English sculptor from the mid-twentieth century. He was a conscientious objector during the Second World War, and worked at a blacksmith shop repairing farm implements. He was one of the most well known sculpture artists of the 1950s and 60s.

His piece on campus is from the Putnam Collection of Sculpture, which is a memorial to John B. Putnam, Jr. '45. Putnam was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army who was killed during World War II. The collection consists of the sculptures from of twenty major twentieth-century artists and was funded by an anonymous donor.

It’s not a blob-woman. It’s a work of art created by one of the major twentieth-century sculptors. Also, the statue honors the memory of an American soldier who fought in WWII.

Also, the mud is now a veil.

I wonder if the courtyard was the best place to put the Bride. She is at least 10 feet away from the closest lamppost, and the stone bench near her is surrounded by cigarette butts. Even if she doesn’t come alive at night like characters from Toy Story, I get a sense of loneliness seeing a woman standing alone in a cold courtyard. Where the hell is the groom? Where is the rest of the damn wedding?


I suppose, because this is my second “Hidden Campus” blog post, I should explain the point of writing about empty shuttle stops and Brides.

These aren’t “hidden.” Anyone can see them, and many people do see them. But I suppose Princeton can sometimes feel like a mad swirl of people, essays, fatigued zombies, more homework, meetings, and so on. In the rush to get to Frist or McCosh, I think we may miss some of the quieter parts of campus. Parts that don’t draw us in our free time like the Street. These locations are hidden from us when our senses are bombarded by the immensity of the Princeton experience.

I’m not on a crusade to tell people what to do with their time or to direct them to specific parts of campus. We are busy people who remain so for many various, often justifiable reasons. Many will think this blog is pointless, and it’s fine to think that.

But Princeton seems to be a place with spirit, or at the very least some history to it. What I’m saying is, Princeton may be more alive than a regular street or park. So sometimes, it’s nice to just stop for a bit and … look.

When I write about random places on campus, I feel more connected to it. There is no utility in The Bride. But no one else is looking at her when I’m sitting next to her. It’s almost as though, for a short moment, I’m alone inside a bubble that people can’t see and the Bride is more than just a statue.


Tasnim Shamma '11 said...

Wow, I've never noticed this statue before. Thanks for writing about it. :)

Anonymous said...

I walked by that statue the other day and wondered what the back story was. Thanks for telling it! Please keep sharing the quiet moments.