A Tree of Knowledge
For this project, we were instructed to create a model of a sculpture that we think would add to campus. I decided to base it and place it (via photoshop) by Knapp Hall. Knapp houses eight disciplines: Anthropology and Sociology; Education; Women’s and Gender Studies; Black Studies; Philosophy; Religion; Political Sciences; Religion; and Psychology. I was interested in exploring the intersections of all of these departments/programs, since they all share a physical space. They represent humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and interdisciplinary programs, and their fields of study encompass a wide swath of the human experience.
I landed on creating a Tree of Knowledge, in reference to the biblical creation story. I chose this since as a college, we’re supposed to be all about the acquisition of knowledge (and becoming discerning moral agents, and all), and that these eight disciplines would all have an interesting perspective from which to approach such a story. I also thought that it would be a recognizable symbol to the majority of people touring Denison’s campus, which adds to its appeal as a public art piece. Below is an abridged catalog of my thinking on each discipline:
~Anth/Soch: Looking at this creation story as a cultural mythology, how has it affected the lifestyles of different populations in different contexts?
~Education: How has the Christian church has impacted American schooling, both in content and expected behavior/morality?
~WGST: Why is it significant that Eve, the only woman, is responsible for the downfall of man–cough–kind? How has this affected the experience of women since then?
~Black Studies: How has the whitewashing of biblical characters affected the relationship of Black churches to the Bible?
~Philosophy: How does this story illustrate a biblical moral code, and what do we think about that? (Also, WHY??)
~Religion: (If you have to ask….)
~Poly Sci: How has this story and the Christian religion affected structures and institutions of societal power throughout time?
~Psychology: Why is Eve’s decision considered weakness, and what are the standards of mental “wellness” in the garden? Has this affected medical diagnoses in modern times?
Design-wise, when I began thinking I thought I would have a different apple for each department, aka eight apples, but then I decided that a single apple created by all of them would be a better message, since all fields simultaneously contribute to our interpretation of the world. I used Autodesk Fusion 360 to create it, working in the sculpt mode so that I could play around with the forms more than being confined to shapes. I wanted to make it large, but not actually proportional to a tree–mostly to make people feel a bit uncomfortable and have to try to figure out why, inducing more thought on it!
I ran in to some trouble trying to put the names of the disciplines on the tree, since it isn’t just a rectangular prism, and am working on a solution to this. I also hit a mysterious roadblock when it came to texturing the sculpture for my photoshop image, and was reduced to solid colors only. In my ideal world, the tree would be mostly a metallic copper, while the apple would be bright, shiny red. (The photoshop image also does not do justice to all of the facets on the leaf-balls.)
(You can also find this on Thingiverse.)