For its annual exhibition in 1979, the Society of Sculptors of Pittsburgh split its offerings into two parts. The show featured a typical collection of sculptural work on display at the Arts and Crafts Center as well as a temporary “art park” throughout the grounds of neighboring Mellon Park. The show was called “Impermanence/Permanence.”
“Impermanence” was a clever way to allow local artists to take on the challenge of designing monumental outdoor sculpture without having the secure the large sums typically required to fund such efforts. The competition required artists to use temporary materials and consider the lay of the land as they selected specific locations throughout the park. Using Mellon Park as the site for this experiment allowed visitors to move naturally from the indoor section of the exhibit in the galleries of the Arts and Crafts Center to the outdoor section. But Mellon Park also boasted some intrinsic qualities, as juror and longtime Carnegie Mellon University art professor Robert Lepper wrote in a statement at the time: “Mellon Park is magnificent for this purpose with its two and three-way slopes, little ravines, assorted knolls and splendid trees. The land slipping through and in and out of the works in gracious continuity, invites the spectator to participate.”
The Society of Sculptors accepted submissions from any adult living in the region, and Lepper selected 19 proposals by well-known artists such as Jane Haskell, Aaronel deRoy Gruber and Irene Pasinski and up-and-coming artists such as Ed Eberle, and Ron Desmett. The public was invited to watch the construction process and even participate when appropriate. The finished works struck a range of tones. Sue Martin chose humor with her bales of hay titled “Which Did Come First, The Chicken or the Egg?” Jane Haskell and her daughter Patti Haskell Hoehl took a whimsical approach by constructing an enlarged spider web hung with beads of morning dew. Scott Smith’s “Ground Weaving” used redwood stakes and cables to suture a gently rising hillside.
By Eric Lidji, writer