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In memoriam: William Crutchfield, IUPUI Campus Center 'Punctuation Spire' artist



INDIANAPOLIS — The Herron School of Art and Design graduate and former professor whose colossal typewriter-inspired sculpture stands in the atrium of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Campus Center died this spring, Herron officials learned recently.

William Crutchfield, 83, an internationally known multimedia artist and creator of “Punctuation Spire,” died in his sleep April 20 in his home in California. Barbara, his wife of 50 years, survives him.

“Punctuation Spire,” created in 1981 and installed at IUPUI the summer of 2010, soars 28 feet high and weighs 3,000 pounds.

 The work is made of steel, aluminum, eight-ply birch plywood and Honduras mahogany. A. Alfred Taubman commissioned the piece for the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. Crutchfield arranged for it to be gifted to Herron when the school moved to the IUPUI campus in 2005.

Crutchfield characterized the work when it was installed:

“‘Punctuation Spire’ celebrates the English language and its essential importance to the development of civilization. It can be viewed as pure abstract form from any side. This sculpture is made of 12 basic symbols inspired by the typewriter; characters ideal for creating a three-dimensional work. The question mark base is balanced on a visually small point which lends the spire a feeling of buoyancy, a feeling of lift, a sense of life and love — a powerful presence.”

Born in 1932 in Indianapolis, Crutchfield earned a BFA degree in painting from Herron School of Art and Design in 1956 and an MFA degree from Tulane University in 1960. A Fulbright Scholarship funded his studies in Hamburg, Germany in 1960 to 1962.

Crutchfield joined Herron’s faculty to teach foundation studies and advanced drawing from 1962 to 1965 and then became chairman of foundation studies at the Minneapolis College of Art from 1965 to 1967.

He and Barbara settled into their studio in San Pedro, Calif., producing drawings, paintings, lithographs, screen prints and sculpture. His work is in collections nationally from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and internationally from the Tate Modern, London, to the National Gallery of Australia and the Singapore Art Museum.

“I enjoyed getting to know Bill and Barbara over the last 17 years since I became Herron’s dean, and I feel fortunate that I was able to spend as much time as possible with both of them whenever I made it to the West Coast,” Herron Dean Valerie Eickmeier said. “Bill’s wish was for no fuss over his passing and for a focus on the relevance of his work. He was a prolific artist, and his work was simultaneously humorous and thought-provoking. It will stand the test of time.”

“Punctuation Spire” is one of a series of four monumental works. The other three works, “Alphabet Spire” (Westfarms Mall at Corbins Corner, Conn.), “Countdown” (Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, N.J.) and “Wish” (Marley Station Mall, Glen Burnie, Md.) have similar structural considerations.