Brickhead Conversations by James Tyler

Jul 25, 2013

There’s new public art on the Purdue campus. It’s called “Brickhead Conversations” featuring two large heads of clay – each sitting on one side of the Pao Hall plaza.

James Tyler stands on a ladder to put the final pieces of the head, which sits on the west side of the Pao Hall plaza.
Credit Mike Loizzo / WBAA Radio

Sculptor James Tyler created the pieces, which feature sounds of nature emanating from each head.

“It’s the same overall concept that all of these ‘brickheads’ are about,” he says. “There all about a place, a time, an element of the world, and human participation therein, so these now are a dialogue between these sounds.”

He sculpted about 8,000 pounds of clay for each head before cutting them into bricks. That was done in his warehouse studio north of New York City.

“This is a pretty primitive technique. I’m building giant, clay heads, which someone might have been doing 1,000 years ago, so the tools are pretty rudimentary. I’ve pounded together with a big mallet. I cut it apart with an old, dull handsaw – there’s not much else to it.”

The head on the east side of the Pao Hall plaza.
Credit Mike Loizzo / WBAA Radio

Speakers inside play the nature sounds recorded by Bryan Pijanowski, a professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue. Tyler says they worked together to find interesting recordings from the area.

“So, these would be sounds that really might have been heard at this very site before it was developed,” he says. “I then was able to build a 24 hour day-in-the-life of this natural Indiana wetland.”

You can see a video of the early work Tyler did on “Brickhead Conversations” HERE.