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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
August 16, 2004
Volume 40, Number 1

Sabo sculpture to be unveiled
UNM’s newest public art located near SUB

By Laurie Mellas-Ramirez

Near the University of New Mexico Student Union, seven life-size bronze figures react to a new, 24-foot high contemporary stainless steel sculpture. Two couples feverishly discuss its merits. A man takes a seat on a nearby bench to ponder its shiny shape. One woman turns away – arms wide open – as if giving up on the entire concept. Another lone fellow scratches his head at the commotion.

Betty Sabo’s “Modern Art,” on Cornell Mall is the newest piece in UNM’s public art collection. It will be officially unveiled Monday, Aug. 23 at 4 p.m.

In 2000, UNM administration discussed commissioning a major interactive art piece by a local artist, said Gil Berry, UNM Facility Planning. They selected Sabo, who attended UNM and is now serving a second consecutive three-year term on the UNM Alumni board. She is a new member of the UNM Foundation board.

Sabo was asked to create a maquette, or design proposal, Berry said. It was accepted by administration and UNM’s Art in Public Places committee. Underway was a project to redesign the Cornell Mall. Student Union renovations were also about to begin.

“The site seemed to be an excellent place for the Sabo piece and it certainly supported the interactive part of the administration’s request,” Berry said.

Although the SUB opened last fall, continued work on the Cornell Mall utility tunnel caused further delay. Sabo’s art was installed early this summer. Attendance at the unveiling, which coincides with the first day of fall classes, is expected to be sizable.

“Betty’s signature is not only familiar to collectors of art, it is also familiar to the community as a whole. Betty has supported art in the community and has supported the community through her art,” said Karen Abraham, UNM Alumni Office director.

Sabo, 75, studied art at UNM in the late 1940s and was a renowned painter before she began to create the signature bronzes in her mid-60s. The Albuquerque Museum commissioned one of her first pieces, the 1995 bronze “Julia Resting,” of a woman seated on a bench outside the museum’s front doors. She also sculpted the Botanical Garden work of Clyde and Carrie Tingley, Sabo’s neighbors when she was a child.

“The idea for the UNM piece harked back to my days in school there when contemporary art was very strong in the art department. The teaching leaned heavily toward contemporary art,” Sabo said. “It was a historical time in the art world and certainly the university was very involved in producing marvelous contemporary artists.”

Sabo commissioned her brother, contemporary artist Gary Beals of Phoenix, to create the stainless steel centerpiece. She intended the piece to honor both the contemporary and traditional.

“I think everyone can relate to some part of it – the piece has a storyline to a certain extent that is easily recognizable. It’s fun. I really want people to enjoy it,” Sabo said.