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Monday, May 27, 2024

‘Guardians: Spirits of Protection’ explores healing after facing loss

Professor emerita and artist Ann Savageau shares the process and inspiration behind her installation


By CLARA FISCHER — arts@theaggie.org


“Guardians: Spirits of Protection,” an installation by professor emerita and artist Ann Savageau, is now open for anyone in the community to view. Located in the UC Davis Design Museum in Room 124 of Cruess Hall, the installation is open to the public free of charge. Showing times are 12-4 p.m. every weekday until April 24.

Featuring 17 sculptures — each a unique guardian — the installation is an exploration of grief and humans’ unique ability to create beauty out of tragedy. Following extreme personal loss, Savageau started work on her collection. Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, providing even more inspiration for her to pull from.

Together, the guardians work to represent the overall theme of the exhibit, but upon closer inspection, the details of each individual piece jump out at the viewer.

For example, one of the pieces holds an intricately etched COVID-19 virus sculpture in its hand and boasts the Rod of Asclepius (a trademark symbol of the medical field) on its chest. Another has two hearts etched in its palms, facing the back so that the viewer has to really interact with the piece to even notice this.

Thoughtful little things like these provide each piece with its own personality, and while viewers can interpret each guardian as they like, these small details do provide more context and offer viewers a starting point that they can then individually expand on.

As someone who has very little knowledge of anything to do with art, it can sometimes be difficult to truly appreciate all the work that has gone into creating a collection. However, it’s clear even to an art novice that Savageau has finesse and puts incredible dedication into her work.

“It’s a difficult process,” Savageau said. “I would usually lay [the materials] out on the floor and play around with the different materials that I had, finally decide on one that I liked and then put it together from there.”

The exhibit also has an eco-conscious aspect to it — it’s made entirely from recycled materials that the artist collected herself. “The materials are gleaned from all over the place, especially the beaches of Northern California,” Savageau said. “These are all things that are seen as worthless, with no value, that nobody else wants, but then if you put them together, you have a new object that is a composite of a lot of different objects from different places.”

And that’s what’s really striking about her work — this ability to capture poignant emotions through an amalgamation of pieces that others may view as junk. Her work clearly resonates deeply with her audience, and to demonstrate this impact, the gallery also features an interactive component. Just beyond the sculptures, there is a smaller, slightly hidden area where viewers are invited to write down any thoughts, prayers or other comments they might have.

“I chose the topic of guardians to explore my feelings and to think about how all of us need protection from what’s going on in the world,” Savageau said.

It’s true — everybody has, in some way, experienced a loss in the past year. Whether that be lost time, a lost job or even the loss of a loved one, we all are in need of healing and protection, now more than ever.


Written by: Clara Fischer — arts@theaggie.org


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