Donald Walford (American, born 1945)
The Object, 1967
Location: Binghamton University, Dickinson Community
Gift of the Artist
Owned by Binghamton University
From the moment of its initial installation in Dickinson College (as it was known then), Don Walford’s The Object has remained a beloved symbol not only for the residents of Dickinson but for the entire student community of Binghamton University. Much of The Object’s long lasting appeal lies in its ability to engage the viewer on both cognitive and emotional levels: the abstractness of the work encourages analytic inspection, while its shape encourages climbing and sitting.
The Object was completed in June 1967 by Walford, a Binghamton University student, as the final project for his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Walford’s first title for it was Construction No. 3, a name that reflects the sculpture’s relationship to the art movement that emerged in the mid-1960s and came to be known as Minimalism. Minimalist artists often used such plainspoken, engineering-like titles for their works; further, large scale, and use of repeated, basic geometric forms, and direct insertion into the environment are all features of Minimalism that The Object shares. The linkage between The Object and its environment is particularly important; even to the present day it remains a popular site for students to meet up, read, study, or chat while sitting on the sculpture.
When The Object was formally acquired by the university in the fall of 1967, it was renamed Collegiate Structure. This renaming suggests university administrators might have aimed to associate the work with the pedagogical mission of the university, in such a reading, the interlocking beams of the work provide support to one another in order to buttress the entirety of the structure, similar to how the interdisciplinary environment of Binghamton University aims to provide a multifaceted education. In 1974, when Dickinson College was renamed Dickinson Community, The Object was also renamed, and given the title it holds today.
Walford’s original structure comprised of discarded wooden railroad ties that, due to weathering, decayed over time. In 2009, the original wooden structure of The Object was demolished and recast in order to make the sculpture more resistant to the elements. Walford has stayed in contact with the university, and oversaw the reconstruction of his artwork in 2009; he was also present at Binghamton University in 2013, when the sculpture was relocated to its current location, between the newly named Rafuse and Digman Halls as part of Dickinson Community’s move to a new set of buildings. Regardless its location on campus, however, The Object seems to retain its magnetic qualities. The sleek black set of bars invites one to sit for a while, whether alone or with others, and ruminate on the intersectionality that the piece and the campus both embody.
Researched by: Daniel Bontempi