Lines of Sight

Lines of Sight is the first public artwork commissioned by Brown University in its percent-for-art program. The artwork is integrated into the glass curtain-wall of a high-traffic, two-story glass pedestrian bridge connecting the wings of the Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences, so you see through the artwork when you look into or out of the bridge. Designed by Ballinger of Philadelphia and located in the center of the Brown University campus, the new building is a state-of-the-art facility intended to demonstrate Brown’s vision of scientific research as a multi-disciplinary collaborative process.

Standing on the bridge, within Diane Samuels’ artwork Lines of Sight, a pedestrian can feel enfolded by a world of words—or like a specimen on a glass slide for a gigantic microscope.

Lines of Sight is made from and within 140 custom-manufactured, double-pane windows, totaling over 3800 square feet of window surface. Each window is completely filled with free-floating glass elements such as magnifying lenses, beads, prisms, and disks. Over 750,000 of these elements were hand-placed into the windows by the artist and her assistant, Maggie Haas. Interspersed throughout are 7,500 small glass rectangles, hand-engraved by the artist with excerpts of poetry or prose along with the author’s name and birth date. The quotations span centuries and were submitted by hundreds of Brown students, faculty, administration, staff, friends, and alums, as well as the artist herself. They speak to the theme of observing the world, paying attention, and looking closely—activities common to artists and scientists.

On each side of the bridge, sandblasted into the outer surface of the glass panes and stretching the bridge’s entire length, is the faint image of a hand. The two hands are enlargements, 85-times actual size, anonymously chosen by the artist from among hundreds of hands she scanned of individuals at Brown University in 2004.

Lines of Sight involved immense physical labor by the artist, as well as an unremitting attention to detail. Just to manufacture the glass panels in the bridge required her inventing an entirely new (and patent-pending) method for constructing glass windows.

Literally and metaphorically Lines of Sight serves as a bridge joining the arts to the sciences and connects diverse modes of creative inquiry.

Title: Lines of Sight

Size: 1,900 square feet
Materials: Glass (magnifying lenses, beads, prisms, disks)
Date completed: 2006
Funded by: Carolyn Greenspan and Marshall Ruben
Art Consultant: Wendy Feuer
Architect: Ballinger
Location: Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

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