Just north of Van Hise Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, “Effigy: Bird Form” hovers over the ground (or at least appears to).
The aluminum sculpture, which weighs more than 900 lbs., is one of the newest attractions on campus—but it isn’t new. In fact, artist Truman Lowe and Wisconsin-based Hooper Corp. worked on the sculpture in the Madison area more than two decades ago.
Lowe’s sculpture has had multiple homes throughout its existence, including a one-year stay at the White House. But after 26 years, “Effigy” has come home to the University of Wisconsin, a place where Lowe is known for his art and contributions both to the university and the area’s Native American community.
“I never thought it would be back here, back home,” said Larry Sailing, who worked with Lowe on the sculpture.
Sailing has spent 34 years in Hooper Corp.’s custom metals department. It is among the smaller departments at the company, an electric power and mechanical contractor headquartered in DeForest, Wis., with regional offices in Colorado, Florida, and Ohio. Nowadays, Sailing is shop foreman, and much of the company’s metalwork comprises custom projects for residential, commercial, and pharmaceutical customers.
Early in his career, Sailing had the opportunity to work with Lowe on this metal sculpture—a memory that remains fresh in his mind, and rightfully so: “Effigy” was displayed at the White House’s Jacqueline Kennedy Garden as part of a yearlong exhibition. It’s something Sailing describes to others as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Lowe was well known locally and beyond; his work had been exhibited in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa, South America, and New Zealand. While he worked in wood mostly, he did venture into metals like aluminum.
Jo Ortel, author of “Woodland Reflections: The Art of Truman Lowe,” described his work as minimalist yet elegant.