On May 4, 2014, the Knoxville Museum of Art
debuted a new, monumentally scaled sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist Richard Jolley. Commissioned especially for the museum's newly refurbished Great Hall, where it will remain on permanent view, Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity extends for some 100 running feet and soars to a height of 12 feet, making it one of the largest figurative glass-and-steel assemblages in the world. Fashioned of thousands of individual cast and blown-glass elements, the massive work unfolds as an epic narrative of the successive phases of life. Begun in 2009, it is the Knoxville-based artist's most ambitious and complex undertaking to date.
The entire project, including execution, assembly, and installation, has been generously underwritten by long-time KMA supporters Ann and Steve Bailey.
KMA Director David Butler said, "Cycle of Life is a game-changer for the Museum in a number of important ways. First, it reveals Richard's exceptional artistic rigor and vision-an aesthetically stunning masterwork that is also an engineering marvel. Cycle of Life is also emblematic of the KMA's commitment to art of the region and to collecting the work of contemporary artists of international repute. Thanks to our exceptional board of trustees, generous supporters, community leaders, and dedicated staff, we are able to present Richard's magnificent sculpture in a refurbished and expanded facility. Finally, the commission coincides with KMA's 25th anniversary celebration-a wonderful milestone for our community. We are profoundly grateful to Ann and Steve Bailey, whose extraordinary generosity inspired Richard to 'dream big' (monumentally, in this case). They have immeasurably enriched the Museum experience for our visitors, and provided a new must-see highlight amid the city's cultural offerings."
The fragility, complexity, and monumental size of the sculpture-which measures approximately 105 x 30 x 12 feet and weighs seven tons-presented enormous technical challenges, not only in the execution but in the installation of the work. Delivered to the KMA on flatbed trucks, the largest sections were hoisted by crane riggers over the Museum's South Garden wall. In order to safely accommodate the weight of the work, an array of structural interventions to the Great Hall was necessary, including the addition of support beams. Jolley created three massive undulating metal plinths-each weighing 1,500 pounds and anchored onto the wall approximately 11 feet above the floor-to serve as a structural foundation. Jolley and his studio team were assisted in the installation process, which began in December 2013, by Partners Development, the Knoxville-based firm that managed the recently completed, building-wide refurbishment of the Museum.