Senior student creates veteran relief sculptures

Photo by Taylor Healy | Senior Taylor Healey spent 20 hours a week from January to early October working on the reliefs for the center.

The Student Veterans Center, tucked away in the corner of the fifth floor of the Conaton Learning Commons, now boasts a brand new art installation: a wall mural consisting of four different relief pieces. Senior fine arts major Taylor Healey was commissioned by the Student Veterans Center for the project, which was funded by donations from GE.

According to Chris Klug, the director of the Student Veterans Center, the choice of a relief—a type of sculpture in which the elements remain attached to a background, so that the various components appear to be raised from the background—came about after he saw similar sculptures in the office of Kelly Phelps, the chair of the School of Arts and Innovation.

“Other universities do different things. Some universities have…like an army emblem, so they would have all five branches up there, or they would do some paintings but there was never any like artsy kind of stuff,” Klug said. “So when I walked into Kelly’s office and I saw those relief sculptures I was like, ‘that’s unique and something different, let’s go with this.’ So it was just kind of personal taste.”

Healey was chosen because of his background in sculpture. He spent 20 hours a week from January to early October working on the reliefs, three of which measure 2’x4’x4” in size and one that measures 2’x6’x8” in size. All in all, it amounted to approximately 800 hours of work.

Healey explained that while creating sketches for the murals, the focus was less on being a veteran and more on the connection student veterans have to Xavier.

“The idea was not to focus on the veterans in service because one, it’s common, but two, it can get a little bit into an area that might draw up PTSD or have the wrong focus,” Healey said. “So, (I focused) on the inclusion of veterans on campus and how and why they are important to campus life and being in class. Also, it’s a form of just saying thanks to those in service.”

Because the murals do not depict veterans in service, Healey used symbols to point to the focus on the veterans. For example, a graduating student wears a sash that veterans receive, and the back of a tour guide’s shirt contains the Veterans Center logo. In addition, a figure playing a bugle is based on a real-life image taken after World War II of a student playing on the steps of Hinkle Hall.

To tie in Xavier, three of the four pieces display campus in the background, and the connection is made apparent with the first figure that one sees — a veteran showing the X.

“The idea is that even though they’re veterans and they’ve gone through a completely different experience, they’re here at Xavier, and we welcome them into campus life,” Healey said, “and this ‘X’ is something that every student’s going to do at some point. So it’s a way of showing how they participate as well as being on campus and going to class and graduating.”

Klug added that the overall reaction to the pieces has been positive.

“When the contractors were hanging it, all the students couldn’t believe it because they didn’t even know it was happening. I kind of did it behind everybody’s back, but when they saw it they all loved it,” Klug said.

“It’s unique because it takes you from 50s up until now, and everybody just really enjoys it. It looks really cool hanging on the wall. It’s a symbol of veterans throughout Xavier…and I think when new students come through, that’s when we get the biggest reaction, because they’re not used to seeing stuff like that at other universities.”

By: Ellen Siefke ~Managing Editor~