Tsunami Ascending, 1990

Artist Christiane T. Martens (1943- ) created this sculpture, which is painted steel. Reaching 10'6" high, the piece of art is displayed on the patio of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. It was acquired through the Beckman Institute Art Enhancement Fund.

Christiane Martens had her sculpture Tsunami Ascending placed at the far end of the patio so that it would not be dwarfed by the building's monumental size. It stands out because of its bright red color against the surrounding evergreens.

A tsunami is a tremendous, often destructive sea wave caused by underwater earthquakes, but the artist acknowledged that this phenomenon had nothing to do with inspiring her. She gave the abstract work its title only after completing it, after reflecting on its emotional impact. The name is not descriptive, she said, but is meant to evoke an image, in this case that of a tidal wave.

Curved elements suggest the power and movement of tremendous currents, she noted, while the "red color underscores the unleashed force and commanding presence of this natural phenomenon. The light blue edges highlight and activate the linear gestural and expressive quality of the sculpture."

The focus of Martens's art has been welded steel or stainless steel sculpture, which evolved from gallery-size geometric pieces to large-scale, site-specific corporate or public works. Under the nationwide "Percent for Art" program, she has won nine commissions, including sculptures for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; the Columbia Correctional Institution, Portage, Wisconsin; and the State Revenue Building, Springfield, Illinois. In 1993, she was a top prizewinner in the prestigious Fujisankei Biennale International Competition for contemporary sculpture, at the Hakone Open Air Museum, Japan. Active as an exhibitor and lecturer, she has been a professor of art at the University since 1981.

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