It’s a piece of primordial imagination.
The sculpted chandelier that hangs above the front lobby at Georgia Health Sciences University’s new College of Dental Medicine was difficult, at first, for even the artist who designed it to describe.
“It’s going to look like a big melted mushroom. Like a giant sunflower that’s wilting,” Augusta artist Paul Pearman said by phone four months ago.
Pearman formally unveiled the creation at the school on Wednesday. Look at it once, and it’s hard to stop.
Three massive jellyfish-shaped tiers dripping with tentacles hang, one below the other, in descending size. At the lowest, fourth level is a teardrop pendant wrapped around a brushed chrome globe that contains a clock.
The sculpture’s entire surface is covered with a mosaic of white, blue and gray iridescent glass, illuminated by embedded LED lights. The effect is reminiscent of a glowing Impressionist painting.
Connie Drisko, dean of the College of Dental Medicine, invited Pearman last fall to pitch a sculpture design after she saw a mosaic he had created for an upscale fireplace.
His style reminded her of Gaudi, an artist and architect who near the turn of the 20th century designed a cathedral and other buildings in Barcelona, Spain.
“They’re fascinating, it all looks like melted wax to me,” Drisko said. “Paul’s piece is like a cross between Gaudi, Salvador Dali and Tiffany. It has a lot of movement. It’s very emotional.”
Pearman’s chandelier is the centerpiece of a larger effort spearheaded by Drisko to cover the new dental college with artwork.
Artists, art patrons and dentists have been invited to donate. The collection will begin in the lobbies and extend deeper into the building as it grows.
“We don’t want this place to look like an institution or a hospital,” Drisko said. “We want a warm, inviting environment.”
Pearman’s sculpture was funded by a gift from dental school patron Emile Fisher and through other private donations, Drisko said.
A mosaic artist for years, designing interior décor and a widely successful line of mosaic belt buckles, Pearman said the dental college chandelier is the biggest project he has attempted so far.
The sculpture’s organic flowing shape was inspired by Salvador Dali’s Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of a New Man.
For the eight-month project, Pearman employed a team of craftsmen and had to erect a building in his backyard to contain the work. He built the skeleton of the sculpture from steel, and covered it with carved foam and fiberglass. Each shard of reflective glass was snipped and attached by hand.
What had started as an art project quickly became a disciplined experiment in problem-solving, Pearman said. But, in return for overcoming unique challenges, he hopes the sculpture and the college will enjoy a one-of-a-kind response.
“A project like this is like Las Vegas,” Pearman said. “If you build it, they will come.”