$187,000 sculpture finds home on Busch campus
A new sculpture entitled “Synergy,” featuring a protein called collagen, has found a home on Busch campus.
The sculpture, installed Friday morning, features three strands interwoven in a vertical braid. It lies in the middle of the courtyard in front of the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research.
“Synergy” cost $187,000, artist Julian Voss-Andreae said.
Voss-Andreae said choosing red, blue and yellow for the sculpture took a lot of thought.
“It’s a bit of a balance, you know,” he said. “In nature, those three strands are exactly the same. To color them differently is a departure from that, but it makes sense. Together they make up the primary colors, which together can make all sorts of colors.”
Voss-Andreae, an artist from Hamburg, Germany, living in Portland, Ore., said after working in the field of physics, he realized his true passion was creating art. When he began to pursue his doctoral degree and looked at jellyfish proteins for the first time, he noticed their green florescence.
“I saw Google images of this [green fluorescent protein], and I was totally blown away,” he said. “It was seeing how they connect [that intrigued me].”
Stephen Burley, director of the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research, said the sculpture is symbolic of Rutgers. The three strands are representative of what Rutgers offers as a whole.
“Blood vessels are surrounded by collagen, it is vital for the integrity of the body,” he said. “This is symbolic of the bridge between the basic sciences, the medical school and the arts.”
Christine Zardecki, a research associate at the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research, said the sculpture has always been a part of the plan for the new Proteomics building.
Though the building is about a year old, she said, plans for the collagen sculpture have been in the works for about two years.
The founding director of the building, Helen Berman, has been a fan of Voss-Andreae’s work and wanted him to design something for the new building, Zardecki said.
Berman said he determined the first structure of collagen while here at Rutgers, so they felt it was a natural fit.
“[We chose Voss-Andreae] because he’s done a lot of sculptures of protein structures,” Zardecki said.
The CIPR is also home to the Protein Data Bank, an online archive for tens of thousands of proteins and nucleic acids, she said.
Voss-Andreae said the bank is a resource he has used since 2001 to get the designs for his sculptures.
After graduating from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Voss-Andreae said one of the first sculptures he made was based on a collagen protein. This provided the inspiration for the design of the sculpture now located on Busch campus.
“I know [Berman] came across my work somehow,” he said. “But I’ve been using the [Protein Data Bank] to turn these structures into instructions for my sculptures. In 2011 they reached out to me and said they would like a collagen, so that was clear from the get go.”
Collagen is one of Voss-Andreae’s favorite molecules, and he said he was happy to create the sculpture for Rutgers.
“It’s an important protein, because it’s the most abundant protein in our bodies,” he said. “It has this tightrope structure, and plays a role in cell development. It’s an intriguing molecule for the whole machinery of life.”
To start the sculpture, Voss-Andreae used a computer program to turn a three-dimensional image of the protein into cutting instructions, he said. He built a model of collagen in his computer to get the right structure.
“When it was a go, I started out building a very precise model of it,” he said.
For the sculpture, he said he had to special order square tubing used to build skyscrapers and stainless steel instead of traditional steel.
While he waited two months for the steel, he said he ran simulations against the model, including one of how it would hold up in the elements.
“You make a pattern of what the laser will cut on the metal,” he said. “Without a laser you could never get it this precise. That’s a step where you can’t make a mistake, especially because you can’t even order the steel anymore.”
The whole process ran smoothly, Voss-Andreae said, including the installation. The sculpture was raised and installed in less than four hours on a sunny Friday morning.
“It is amazing that it’s here,” he said. “It went incredibly smooth, I have to say. I’m pretty excited that we’ve made this one.”
On Thursday, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital will hold a symposium honoring Berman from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Burley said. Following the symposium, there will be a dedication of the sculpture.