Three Storms (1993) is a decorative bench created for the Seats of Awareness Project for the Miami University Art Museum Sculpture Park, an addition to the museum on its fifteenth anniversary. The sculpture park and the benches located on its grounds were created with funds from a National Endowment for the Arts regrant to the Ohio Arts Council. This specific piece was paid for through the Thomas J. Emery Memorial foundation, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1925 that strives to support local cultural and educational institutions in order to contribute to the physical, social, civic, and educational betterment of citizens around Cincinnati. Three Storms is the first of three benches that were actualized, although the original plans for the sculpture park called for ten benches to be installed. The benches that followed were completed by Kentucky artist Don Lawler.
Barry Gunderson with a model of Three Storms
Three Storms departs from the traditional view of a bench as it substitutes straight-forward, linear forms for more organic wavy ones. This deviation from the norm gives the piece a playful feeling that invites viewers to interact with it despite looking a little different from the average bench. Additionally, the piece has a restricted color palette as Gunderson worked solely in black and white. Black abstract shapes and stripes adorn a white ground, giving the viewer plenty to look at without overwhelming them with the use of color. Its high contrast is visually appealing, contributing to its playful and inviting nature. Gunderson’s work is double sided with a place to sit on either side of the aluminum bench. It measures at a length of a little under nine and a half feet with a height of ten and a half feet tall, making it just the right size for a large group of friends to sit on together.
Archival photo of the bench from 1995
The artist, Barry Gunderson was chosen to create Three Storms through a juried competition. He is well known for creating art with inspirations drawn from nature and articles and photographs from within scientific publications. Three Storms follows this pattern as he drew inspiration for this particular piece in the clouds. This piece derives from his previous projects, though, because he no longer is trying to depict the physical forms of natural elements, but rather the feelings he associates with them. He says, “back then I was trying to capture the clouds. Now I am letting them rain on us.” His use of abstraction allows the bench to speak for itself instead of directly telling the viewer what they are seeing through representational sculpture. The viewer gets to use their imagination to formulate a connection between the work and its title, creating associations between the wavy lines cascading from the misshapen circles at the bench’s top and the look and feel of heavy rain on a stormy summer day.
Artist Sketches of Three Storms