When the late Dental College of Georgia Dean Connie Drisko was looking for a signature art feature for the new, $112 million, 270,000-square-foot dental college building, she turned to Augusta-based artist Paul Pearman.
Known mostly for his mosaic pieces, particularly the belt buckles that have become favorites of celebrities like golfer Rory Sabbatini and singers as varied as Amy Grant and Chaka Khan, Pearman’s singular vision and imaginative sensibilities pretty much ensured that the resulting work would be unconventional and majestic.
And that’s precisely what Drisko wanted for her new building. Having been charmed by a friend’s Pearman fireplace, she knew that whatever the innovative artist would come up with, it would go a long way toward helping the building look less institutional and more inviting.
And it did.
The final sculpture, a 28-foot chandelier that hangs in the three-story lobby, is made of 260 square feet of stainless steel, foam, fiberglass, glue and, of course, thousands of pieces of stained, textured and mirrored glass. In order for the pieces of glass to stick to the extreme contours of the four-tiered sculpture, they had to be small. Really small. So small, in fact, that Pearman sometimes used dental instruments to affix the tiles.
Taking more than 10 months to complete and reminiscent of a jellyfish – or a fantastical cascade of molars – the piece includes thousands of dollars’ worth of hidden LED lights and a teardrop pendant containing a clock.
And because it had to be built with weight in mind, the piece was never really finished until after the last bolt was tightened at the end of the 12-hour installation day, during which a violent thunderstorm blew through, knocking out the building’s electrical power.
If that was scary, the building’s grand opening was far from it. With appearances by everyone from the governor to the mayor to the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, the event represented a high point in the college’s 42-year history.