The Big Bend Comes to UT Dallas

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The latest addition to the Jindal School art collection is massive steel sculpture that was made in Dallas by a local artist of national renown.

A view of Big Bend looking southeast, toward the Jindal School Executive Education Dining Room 

For such a massive sculpture, Big Bend has traveled a lot in the last 40 years, from the shores of the Trinity River to the Dallas Museum of Art to the collection of a Texas oil heiress.

On Nov. 2, the 23-foot-high steel work of art was installed in its new home north of the Naveen Jindal School of Management, and its creator could not be happier.

“It’s a great place for it,” says Dallas artist Mac Whitney. “It’s a big piece that needs to be in a big public space like UT Dallas.”

Big Bend recently was acquired by the Jindal Art Collection, which features both contributed and commissioned sculptures, paintings and photographs. Whitney’s sculpture was donated by an owner who wishes to remain anonymous.

“This newest addition to our growing art collection is truly impressive,” says Dr. Diane McNulty, JSOM associate dean for external affairs and corporate development. “It may be the most valuable piece that has been given to us.”

Whitney is part of a nationally renowned group of Dallas artists sometimes called “The Oak Cliff Five.” In 1976, he created the hulking steel artwork at an Oak Cliff studio near the Trinity River using cables and homemade pulleys to bend the top of the sculpture, hence the title Big Bend.

“Today, a lot of sculptures are built by 12 guys in a factory. But building a piece like Big Bend by yourself is a death-defying act. If anything let go, it could be destructive,” says Whitney.

The sculpture arrived, in pieces, loaded on a flatbed truck.

Installing the 5,000-pound sculpture on campus was no small task. First, a large concrete pad had to be installed, cured and stained. Armed with a telescoping crane and hand tools, a team of workers and art specialists then labored for seven hours to position Big Bend perfectly on the pad, according to David Gwie of UT Dallas Facilities Management.

The Dallas Museum of Art originally commissioned Whitney to create Big Bend for an exhibit he curated at the old DMA building in Fair Park. It was then purchased by Lucille (Lupé) Murchison, the legendary Dallas art collector and daughter-in-law of oil magnate Clint Murchison Sr. After Lupe Murchison died in 2001, Big Bend eventually wound up in the hands of the anonymous benefactor who donated it to the Jindal Art Collection.

(Above and at right:) Workers and art specialists used a telescoping crane to offload the artwork.

Thanks to funds raised at a 2014 gala event, the Jindal Art Collection has grown to include works by such notable Dallas artists as Brad Oldham, Jon Flaming, Janet McGreal and Jim Bowman, whose colorful glass sculpture hangs in the atrium of the Jindal School addition.

Like all the works in the collection, Big Bend helps broaden perspectives and spur creative thinking, says McNulty.

"The Jindal Art Collection enhances the student environment and hopefully instills students with an appreciation for art even after they leave school and enter their careers,” she says.

T.D. Christensen

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