By Emily Cummins, Public Relations Coordinator
Aiming to educate through art, Pittsburgh-based sculptor James West wants to challenge the public to step outside its comfort zone. To this end, his new cast bronze sculpture of Albert Einstein at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks begs spectators to stop and think.
Weighing in at more than 2,000 pounds, Split Infinity is an exploration in science, physics and art that depicts what is perhaps the most famous equation in the world, E = mc2, or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
While kids and adults alike are familiar with the concept, few understand its meaning or significance, but West wants to change that by inspiring his audience visually.
“I imagine and design the framework for every sculptural story, and Split Infinity is no exception,” says West, who’s best known for the monument-sized sculptures Point of View on top of Mt. Washington overlooking the city of Pittsburgh and In the East, Brother Benjamin Franklin located at the Grand Masonic Museum of Philadelphia.
“Einstein looked at time in a physical way and questioned time, space and matter,” he says. “I explored Einstein’s Theory of Relativity deeper to understand the push and pull that Einstein may have experienced not only with this theory, but with his life’s challenges in general. The struggles that occur with anyone during their lifetime must be met with determination and a will to succeed, no matter the size of the challenge. My hope is that this piece, Split Infinity, inspires viewers to think outside their own box and dare to be different!”
The Theory of Relativity explains how what we perceive as the force of gravity in fact arises from the curvature of space and time. As West’s interpretation of that, Split Infinity is a multi-faceted, larger-than-life sculpture that depicts Einstein, split at the waist, being pushed and pulled from floor to ceiling. As a convergence of art and science, West believes the sculpture illustrates how Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) are all critical ways to explore and engage with the world, from concepts like the motion of the planets to the history and expansion of the universe.
“Split Infinity is a powerful representation of how art can serve as a platform to merge the elements and disciplines of learning and to encourage viewers to challenge their understanding of how they as individuals can relate to the bigger picture,” says ArtsQuest Senior Director of Visual Arts Stacie Brennan. “We are so grateful to Jim West for sharing his vision, passion and talent with our community. This sculpture is an incredible opportunity to engage the community in a new way of thinking and looking, and to further an important dialogue of how art and creativity can enhance science, technology, engineering, art and math.”
Split Infinity, which rises from the floor of the ArtsQuest Center and drop from the ceiling of the building, was unveiled during the SouthSide Arts & Music Festival, and is on display through June 23 in the Capital BlueCross Creativity Commons. In addition to free, public viewings, ArtsQuest is hosting more than 1,000 Bethlehem Area School District fifth grade students to view and interact with the sculpture while touring SteelStacks.
“One of the most exciting aspects of this monumental installation is the opportunity it creates for ArtsQuest to engage students in a conversation about the intersection of art and science,” says ArtsQuest Director of Education & Outreach Lisa Harms. “Einstein himself said, ‘After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well.’ Now more than ever, we see that there is great fluidity between disciplines.
“For some students, art may be the conduit by which they understand science and vice versa. Students that visit the ArtsQuest Center to see Split Infinity will undoubtedly be impacted by its scale and beauty. Our hope is that it also sparks their own creativity, and that those sparks continue to fly in the classroom after their visit.”