Sculptor Austin Collins visits IU South Bend

Fr. Austin CollinsFr. Austin Collins

Sculptor Austin I. Collins, C.S.C, will speak at IU South Bend on Thursday, February 3 as a special guest of the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts’ 20th Anniversary season.  The talk, titled “Public Sculpture and Personal Practice,” will be held in Northside’s Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. and will focus on Collins’ artistic process and experiences.

Fr. Collins is a professor of sculpture in the Department of Art, Art History and Design at the University of Notre Dame.  He studied art at the University of California at Berkeley and received a MFA in sculpture from Claremont Graduate University.  Collins is well known for his large scale steel sculptures and has them on display throughout the country.  His area of practice includes public art, large outdoor sculpture, installation art and liturgical art.  The theme of Collins’ creative work often deals with political and social issues.  He has had over 130 exhibitions, including exhibitions at Northwestern University, University of Tennessee, University of Alabama, University of California and the University of Virginia.  His work is in 40 private and public collections.

Fr. Austin Collins Art

In addition to the talk, Fr. Collins has installed one of his outdoor sculptures, “Temple, XX,” on campus for a two year loan.  The 19’ welded steel piece was placed on the IU South Bend campus mall in front of the Franklin D. Schurz Library.  This piece is one of nearly 30 from his “The Temple Series” collection that he has been working on for the past 10 years.  Austin Collins has been quoted as saying: "In my recent work, The Temple Series, I hope to invoke in the viewer a sense of sacred space, of retreating, of reflection.  By constructing a space with abstract geometric steel forms, referencing architecture, games, and toys.”

Austin I. Collins, Artist Statement

For the past ten years I have been working on a series of sculptures entitled The Temple Series. This series of nearly 30 works is constructed of individual pieces of mild steel, which range in height from 5 to 30 feet.  The Temple Series continuity is the product, largely, of a trip I made to Haiti some years ago. While in Haiti I encountered numerous works of art, which expressed the deep spiritual, cultural and political struggles Haitians have undergone over the course of the twentieth century. But these works also revealed how art can transcend the everyday, can lift one above the rawness or brutality of social strife, and can offer a space governed by a calmness that can, in turn, allow for the kind of reflection that leads to social awareness and social change.  In other words, what became clear in the Haitian works I observed was how sculpture can lift one out of the immediacy of his or her context not as pure escapism, but for spiritual, social and political affect.  One was lifted out and offered the contemplative room to see and imagine how things could be different.  The culmination of this kind of viewing encounter was, for me, to step back into a world as a committed agent of change. My hope in the Temple Series work is to capture this same process of produced reflection, which can invoke in the viewer a sense of sacred space, of retreating, of reflection, and of the need to take active charge of his or her destiny.  The “Temple Series” celebrates the convolutions of the individual by first isolating the self as unique, and then by reintroducing that self into a community of similar and dissimilar selves which, taken together, form a more whole or complete landscape that ultimately gives the self meaning.  This back and forth is what I mean when I speak above about my attraction to sculpture’s dynamism, of its ability to shake us up and calm us down, and of its egalitarian essence.

For more information on Collins and to view his sculptures go to his website at