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Outdoor Sculptures on the UCSB Campus

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This is a contributing entry for Outdoor Sculptures on the UCSB Campus and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Stephen Westfall’s formalist approach to art examines line, color, and shape rather than representational images. Consequently, his works are colorful, geometrically-abstract paintings, such as Argus. This complex composition keeps the viewer’s eye moving in an attempt to determine a predictable order of colors (which does not exist) and to identify all the myriad shapes and patterns that make up the work, from squares, triangles and diamonds to X’s and zig zags. Sustained examination of the composition also reveals an optical effect in which the diamond shapes appear to shift between receding into, and projecting out of, the plane of the painting.

Argus By Stephen Westall

Wall, Architecture, Ceiling, Pattern

Wall, Architecture, Line, Pattern

The smaller diamond shapes, or “God’s eyes” as the artist calls them, is a reference to the similarly shaped Mexican folk craft and votive object. The profusion of these “eyes” served as the inspiration for the title. Argus, from Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphosis, had one hundred eyes and imprisoned a lover of the Greek god Zeus. Hermes, Zeus’ son, decapitated Argus by first lulling him to sleep with a song. For Westfall, this narrative represents the triumph of the arts as Hermes was only able to overcome Argus by employing music, the most abstract of the arts. As a distinguished alum from the Department of Art and College of Creative Studies, Westfall wanted to celebrate the arts and his alma mater through this mural. 

A museum purchase, the work exists as a design and set of instructions from the artist that detail how the painting should look and be executed. For this reason, Argus can be installed anywhere, indoors or out, as long as the artist’s instructions regarding its composition and installation are followed. In this way, the painting is both site- specific and flexible. Argus acts as a beacon in the distance to the Museum visitors, further emphasizing this portion of the campus as an artistic, creative center, and represents yet another example of contemporary artistic practice in the Museum’s collection.