Abstract art on campus a mystery

“Patrice” is wielded together from black steel.

She is an abstract representative of jazz and sits in front of the Ware-Rhaney building, but students and faculty alike have no idea who she is.

“Nobody knows what it is,” said Amber Jones 21, from Melbourne. The senior health information management, or HIM, student said she thinks it is from the architecture building. “It looks like a big hunk of metal.”

Fellow HIM student Travonia Warren, 22, said she thinks the sculpture has some type of meaning, but she doesn’t know. “It’s never bothered me, but I don’t know what it is.”

“Patrice” leaves not only students puzzled but faculty as well. Eva Walker, a receptionist for the School of Allied Health Sciences, said, “I don’t know what it is,” and when the sculpture was put up, “I didn’t know what it was…It was a puzzle.”

Walker said the statue was authorized by former Dean of Nursing Margaret Lewis. Walker thought it had to do something with medicine but was unsure.

In reality, the sculpture is about jazz. “Patrice,” was created by former Florida A&M University art professor Martin Payton. Payton, who currently teaches at Southern University, said he created the piece in 1989 while working at a sculpture studio in Railroad Square Art Park.

Born in New Orleans, Payton said it was there that he became fond of jazz.

“I’m connected to the music,” Payton said. “(It was) the most compelling art around me.” He said he was a fan of the improvisations of black jazz musicians.

“I wanted to bring that kind of thing to the visual art,” Payton said.

Though he said the piece is not a portrait, it is based on Patrice Lumumba.

Lumumba, according to Payton was a revolutionary in the Kongo, during a period when the country was trying to gain independence.

Though the sculpture is based on jazz, he said he purposely named it after Lumumba because he wanted people to question the sculpture and wanted students to research the history behind it.

“Patrice” is not the only sculpture on campus that is a mystery to students on campus. “The Scholar” sits behind Samuel H. Coleman Memorial Library, and students study in its shadow every day without knowing its name or what it is.

“It’s supposed to be a bird?” asked Loudeline Francois, a 22-year-old senior political science student from Orlando.

She got up from the tables behind the library and tried to examine the sculpture after being told its name. “I don’t see it,” she said regarding the sculpture’s name.

“The Scholar” is a stainless steel sculpture created by Toby Martin in 1990.

According to information obtained from the database in Coleman, “I’ve tried to create a form that is based on spirituality and its relevance in regard to hierarchy as related to education,” Martin said.

Inside the Coleman Library, there are many other art pieces by FAMU professors and other artists.