Sculpture by Arlington Heights artist finds a new home at Oakton Community College
Sculptor Joseph Burlini has lived -- and sculpted -- in Arlington Heights for 50 years, and seeing his work installed in public areas never gets old.
That was the case last month when Burlini was on hand to see a sculpture he had created in 1989 for a private collector installed in a prominent location at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines.
Called "You and Me," the 14-foot bronze sculpture was positioned near the main entrance of the college, greeting visitors who approach the main building after driving down the winding entrance on College Drive from Golf Road.
"It was part of a series of sculptures of a man and a woman," Burlini says. "It's a play between two figures. The rhythm between the two feels so new. You can almost hear their conversation, but you have to listen."
Nathan Harpaz, curator of the college's Koehnline Museum of Art, agrees, adding that visitors can almost see the figures' affection and love, especially when the pallette of the bronze figures turns to gold near where their hearts would be located.
"You see the gold as (the sculpture) warms up," says Harpaz, museum curator for 20 years at the college. "It's perfect, really. Everyone coming to see the campus can see the sculpture. With this outstanding piece, it needed an important location."
Burlini is now 83, and he concedes that he can no longer weld and fabricate large sheets of metal. Even back in 1989, he crafted this sculpture in a smaller model before the piece was welded to scale by Chicago sculptor John Adduci.
Dr. Marvin Berman, a collector in Highland Park, was the original owner. He showcased the sculpture in his music room at home. When he decided to downsize, he turned to Burlini for suggestions on where to donate the piece. Oakton was a natural choice.
With Burlini's latest sculpture, there are more than 50 sculptures showcased across the campus, including 25 large works outdoors and the rest inside. The museum's mission is to promote Chicago and Illinois artists, while "encouraging an adventuresome environment for art."
The investment in sculpture started back in the 1980s when the college obtained three large sculptures, including "Silver Oak" by Barry Tinsley, "Hoop-La-La" by Jerry Peart and the small, but powerful, bronze "Serpentine Winged" by Richard Hunt.
Their concept for a sculpture garden took shape in 1999 when seven large-scale sculptures were moved from Pier Walk, the annual show of outdoor sculpture at Chicago's Navy Pier, to Oakton.
In obtaining Burlini's latest work, the college gains another piece from a nationally known artist. Its main building already features a somewhat smaller sculpture by Burlini, called "Construction," in its main corridor. Burlini crafted it in 1967, and it was one of the first times he used welding in his sculpture.
Over his career, Burlini's corporate and public commissions have ranged from the Pentagon in Washington, the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Ravinia Festival in Highland Park and the Aon Center, in Chicago.
Local residents walk past one of Burlini's works every time they work out at Northwest Community Hospital's Wellness Center in Arlington Heights. It is a 28-foot aluminum sculpture at the building's entrance titled "Aspired."
With its expansive public art collection, everyone who visits Oakton Community College benefits, Harpaz says.
"It's enriching for students -- and people in the community," he says. "We're trying to create an atmosphere and tie the art into the curriculum."
The college is so excited about its sculpture park and promoting public art that it offers a self-guided tour of its Des Plaines campus on Vamonde, a phone app, which includes a GPS map, images and text messages describing each piece and its artist.