Public Art

Astro Treillage

By Michael Dunbar
Category: Sculpture


Michael Dunbar named this piece “astro” meaning star, and “treillage,” a latticework for growing plants. Dunbar pondered the proximity of the Belleville Campus to Cahokia Mounds when creating the work. The shape of the sculpture suggests a number of early tools, including a sexton, used by early sailors for determining the right compass direction. This 17-foot sculpture is a memorial to William E. and Florence Schmidt. Individuals, organizations and dozens of businesses provided cash or in-kind support, labor and materials to contribute to the creation of the piece. Astro Treillage was a gift from the William E. Schmidt Charitable Foundation and a number of donors to the College Foundation.

Michael Dunbar — in describing the joy he receives from the perfection of the elements of his sculpture — says, “I take great pleasure in achieving joints of such precision that you can’t get dental floss through them.” This comment exemplifies his approach to his work, which manifests a combination of mathematical relationships and mechanical exactness. His large-scale work does not display fluidity of form or impulsive emotion; it is the result of well-thought-out three-dimensional drawings and carefully calibrated maquettes that reflect the artist’s machine-age sensibility. In no way do these processes eliminate imagination, animation, or aesthetics; they are merely subjugated to his industrial bent. Positive and negative elements of material and space do flow, but that flow is carefully controlled rather than vaguely free-form or anthropomorphic. Dunbar is meticulous in design and precise in execution and his sculptures exhibit a mechanical resonance that has an effect beyond the viewer’s immediate response.

Courtesy of Schmidt Art Center and Grounds for Sculpture

Dimensions: 17′ x 14′ x 20′
Year Completed: 1996
Material: Painted steel
Owner: Southwestern Illinois College Foundation
Donor: Gifted by the William E. Schmidt Charitable Foundation and a number of donors to the College Foundation.

About the artist: