You may have noticed an addition to Q-Level of the library: a female figure cast in bronze with a white patina sitting on a park bench. What is it? Where’d it come from? Is it OK to sit on it?

In case you didn’t read our previous blog post about it, this is a sculpture entitled Woman with Sunglasses on Bench, by renowned artist George Segal. The Eisenhower Library was lucky enough to be chosen as the JHU location for this wonderful anonymous gift.

But the question remains, “can I sit on it?” According to Jackie O’Regan, Curator of Cultural Properties at JHU, the answer is YES. Even though the bench is also part of the sculpture – and normally people assume they should not sit on art – the artist created the work to include people, to allow them to share the same space as the art. When you sit next to Woman with Sunglasses you briefly become part of the sculpture.

So, go ahead! Take a seat! When you do interact with this work of art, please show Woman with Sunglasses the care and respect you would any stranger you sit next to on a public bench.

Interested in learning more about George Segal and his art? Take a look at the books we have about him in our collection. Or, look up information about him in the tools found on our Art History Research Guide.

One thought on “Is it Art or is it a Bench?

  1. Ah but htere is still a question. Can we touch her? I don’t mean to sound off but art is usually off limits to the hands. I know that most of Segal’s sculptures existed outdoors, which is open to the elements. Since this piece is positioned indoors, those elements could now be hands especially if the bench is free game. If people can touch her, who is going to clean her up?
    This is an excellent question! Of course you can touch her, but my sense is that when I am near her, or next to her, I really want to give her the space I would give any stranger I might happen to sit next to. I think she gives off a sense of wanting to be left to her thoughts. That is how I see her. I am not going to try to sit on her lap. I might touch her just to see what the painted surface feels like, but in general I respect sculpture and try to use my best judgment around it. She will get dirty. That is another reason to treat her thoughtfully. Yes, we will have to clean her from time to time, and even paint her at some point.
    Jackie O’Regan,
    Curator of Cultural Properties at JHU

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