LIFESTYLE

City Quotient: An Odd Sculpture on Herrick Drive

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

I often take John H. Herrick Drive across the Olentangy River to the Ohio State medical campus. On a strip of grass just south of Herrick and between the river and Cannon Drive is a sculpture on a rough concrete pedestal. It looks to be the form of a man. What is the story of this sculpture?

You're driving by one of dozens of outdoor sculptures gracing our city. This one is titled "Soliloquy" and was created between 1974 and 1976 by Eugene Brooks Friley. He was born in 1921 and was a professor in the ceramics program at OSU for more than four decades. He enrolled there in 1939, served as a bombardier on B-29s in the Pacific during World War II, then returned to OSU to finish his degrees and join the arts faculty. Friley considered nature the source of all art, expressing himself through organic shapes in ceramics, paint, drawings and sculpture. He started working in large ceramics-up to 6 feet high-but kept losing them to breakage on the 2-mile trip from his studio to the kilns in Hopkins Hall. So he turned to more durable materials. Friley once quoted another artist about the creative process: "Picasso once said that creating is like murder because you can only end up with one result, and you have to toss the other five or six possibilities."

"Soliloquy" was dedicated in 1978 and moved to its current site in 1992 or 1993. It's a blend of materials: dyed concrete mixed with fiberglass, and a synthetic rubber compound over a welded steel internal structure. What does it depict? Friley said this is "a water-borne nymph-like creature, frozen in mid-gesture, as though freshly emerged from the morning mists of the nearby Olentangy River." Nice image, no?

Sources: The Columbus Dispatch, Oct. 10, 2010; columbusarts.com, Greater Columbus Arts Council Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in Columbus, 1998; Save Outdoor Sculpture inventory project, 1994

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to cityquotient@columbusmonthly.com, and the answer might appear in a future column.