Rockefeller helps students find That Gargoyle on their shoulder

Gargoyles invade Rockefeller.

By Marcella De Laurentiis

Nicole Lipitz's watercolor
Nicole Lipitz’s watercolor “Untitled,” exhibited at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. (Lorraine C. Brochu)

With all the recent snow and wind, there has hardly been a day during these first two weeks of the quarter when students have been able to lift their heads during their walk across campus. But above our fur caps, and below the unforgiving January sky, rises the tall neo-gothic architecture of the main quad, populated with UChicago’s emblematic gargoyles. Who wasn’t told the folklore of Hull Gate during a campus tour or O-Week? And who hasn’t paused on a nicer day to take in the architecture, gargoyles included, of Stuart or Bartlett? But you don’t have to brave frostbite right now to appreciate our campus’s stony guardians. Head over to Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and take a look at their new exhibit, That Gargoyle on My Shoulder.

Whatever the reason you may enter Rockefeller—maybe to thaw your fingers or to light a candle in remembrance of the recent tragedy in Haiti—you cannot help but notice the spiritual warmth and reverential silence that fills the space. That is, until you notice the strange gray molds attached to the easternmost wall. Ask anyone who works there and they will proudly tell you that the artwork was created by sixth-grade students over at the Lab School. And, if you take a closer look at the 30 papier-mâché constructions and their accompanying smaller sketches, you will notice just how impressive they are for middle-school artwork. Heck, you may even be inspired to break out some glue and newspaper and decorate your dorm room. But rather than scare your roommate with a gargoyle above her bed, you should consider contributing to the exhibit, which goes until March 19 and welcomes gargoyle-related artwork from anyone on campus.

Besides featuring papier-mâché models, the exhibit currently displays photographs, watercolor paintings, and multimedia art from University of Chicago faculty, students, and Chicago residents. Exhibit organizers are hoping to add more photography, plus student poetry and 3-D artwork, by March. Considering that just about everyone’s O-Week photo album on Facebook usually includes at least one gargoyle shot, pretty much everyone is qualified to be a featured artist in this exhibit. For those of you who need a little more incentive, exhibit organizers promise hot chocolate and coloring for anyone who steps in for a brief respite from both Sosc and snow.

If you shudder at the idea of the omnipresent eyes of gargoyles watching over you, you might mistakenly bypass this particular spectacle. Sixty beady eyes observing your every move certainly has the potential to be unnerving, but That Gargoyle on My Shoulder manages to unite the grotesque with the whimsical for an overall experience that is quite positive. The elephant-eared, tentacled, long-snouted beasts that adorn the inner walls of the chapel make the space a little eccentric, quite inventive, and very exemplary of the U of C.