McIninch Art Gallery director Debbie Disston didn’t know artist Dale Rogers was a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University — or rather, New Hampshire College — when the school purchased his sculpture, “Hands,” this year.
“It was really serendipitous,” Disston said last Thursday outside the Southern New Hampshire University admissions building, which is where “Hands” now stands. Rogers had just driven up to drop off the sculpture. The two stood alongside one another in frigid temperatures, waiting for the piece to be bolted in the ground.
It was particularly surprising, she said, because Rogers studied business before he graduated from New Hampshire College in 1995, six years before the school would change its name to Southern New Hampshire University and seven years before the school would create the McIninch Art Gallery in Robert Frost Hall. It was also before the school became top-ranked for its online education and before it created an outdoor gallery, which today houses 10 sculptures. Some were purchased by SNHU, while others are on loan.
“Hands,” which is large, brown and made from CorTen Steel, is one of three new installations at the school. Inscripted on it is a large handprint and these words:
“The biggest question I had as a child was, ‘How would I leave my mark on the world?’”
“I was a very driven person growing up,” Rogers said. “I wanted to create a piece that followed that.”
Rogers didn’t use his business degree in the traditional, customary way that many business grads might — he grew up on a vegetable and dairy farm in Haverhill, Mass., and continued to farm after college. There, he tinkered a bit with welding, though he did this mostly to repair the farming equipment.
It wasn’t until 2002 that he committed himself fully to art.
“But I actually use my business degree a great deal as an artist,” Rogers said. “Art is my business. You have to learn how to sell and market your work in order to be successful.”
You’ll also find art by Donna Dodson on the grounds of SNHU. Her “Tiger Mothers” piece depicts two felines with human likeness; they stand tall and wear knee-length dresses. Their paws hang to the side, and they look straight ahead, almost like soldiers. One is white with black stripes, red sleeves; the other is white with red stripes, black sleeves. The words “tiger” and “mother” are inscripted in Chinese on each tiger cheek.
Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother inspired the piece, which, prior, was on view outside the Christian Science Plaza in Boston.
“They’re reflections of each other,” Dodson said in a phone interview. “The book talks about being a different kind of mom for each of her kids. … Her [Amy Chua’s] first daughter, she raised traditionally, and it worked. That same style didn’t work with the second daughter because she was a different person,” Dodson said.
Also new on the grounds are two pieces by Gillian Christy: “The Space Within, Buds” and “The Space Within, Leaves.” They’re made from stainless and are in the shape of small houses.
Dodson may be a bit biased, being a sculptor, but she thinks outdoor art really adds to a place, especially a college campus.
“You have so many thousands of students there every day. It [sculpture] makes it not such a generic environment,” Dodson said. “It adds beauty, contemplation, something to take pictures with. … It doesn’t take away from the New England beauty of the campus. … It might accent the building, the landscape, but the art is for the community, the students, staff and faculty.”