New sculptures emerge from iconic timepiece

The hours of dawn, noon, dusk and midnight are revealing new art installations in East Carolina University’s Sonic Plaza.

Four pieces were created by Hanna Jubran’s ECU sculpture students to emerge from the center of the clock face atop the 85-foot tower.

The icons – a sleepyhead, cowboy boots and a hat, a cuckoo, and spiky-haired black sheep – replace the first pieces that were installed for Sonic Plaza’s 1999 opening. Along with the clock, the brick plaza next to Joyner Library includes musical columns known as the Sonic Gates, the Percussion Water Wall and a Ground Cloud.

The well-known jester sculpture idly sits before it was removed from the clock tower. The first pieces will be cleaned, painted and prepared for exhibition.

“We created a competition between our sculpture students and each came up with three ideas,” Jubran said. Then professor Carl Twarog and other art faculty selected the best models, and students spent the fall and spring semesters creating the artwork in between their regular classes and assignments.

The pieces, made of cast aluminum and steel, had to meet size and weight requirements to fit through the clock tower door. They also had to be visible from the ground.

Twarog’s animation students are working on a soundtrack to play in conjunction with the pieces’ movement that will be installed when complete.

Ethan Morrow of Liberty, who graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree, created the sleepyhead sculpture that will emerge at dawn.

“It’s about a moment that everyone experiences – a yawn,” he said. “A yawn in itself is an interesting facial experience. I wanted to exaggerate that and put it in the sculpture.”

He chose teal instead of a skin tone; a lot of his figurative work includes bright colors and exaggerated features. Morrow is a self-employed artist, and he is working to create large-scale sculptures for a public art display in his hometown near Greensboro.

ECU alumnus Ethan Morrow steadies his sleepyhead sculpture during installation in the Sonic clock tower.

Morrow estimated he spent at least 60 to 70 hours creating the sleepyhead. “There’s a whole casting process with molten aluminum,” he said. “It was really done in two pieces and welded together.”

The other students who made pieces chosen for the tower project were Sarah Boyd, Mairin Gwyn and Chris Morgan.

Jubran said he would like to start an annual competition and installation if funding for materials can be secured.

Jubran’s art students made the first pieces, too, and those will be cleaned and archived with plans to create a clock tower sculpture exhibition. The original pieces included an abstraction of a rooster that appeared at dawn with crowing; brass horns with musical sound bites at noon; a cannon that fired and smoked at dusk; and the midnight jester that laughed – probably the most well known.

“When I was a freshman, this was the only thing we knew came out,” said Morrow, pointing to the jester.

Inspiration for the Sonic clock tower was the circa 1410 Prague astronomical clock, which still operates in the Czech Republic. When the multimedia clock tower was first built, excitement surrounded the demonstrations. “I heard students just waiting for that moment to come to see what was going to happen,” Jubran said.

ECU professor Hanna Jubran carries a sculpture by one of his students up the stairs of the Sonic clock tower by Joyner Library.

The installation is one of 62 commissioned by North Carolina in the Artworks for State Buildings collection, to “locate public art in places where people gather to live, work, play, or learn,” according to program guidelines from the N.C. Arts Council. Through the program, artworks were commissioned for new public buildings using one-half of one percent of a building’s construction budget.

The project artist, Christopher Janney, is an internationally known composer, artist and architect who has created interactive sound/architecture installations in such public spaces as the Spanish Steps in Rome, the Miami International Airport, subways in Paris and Boston and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

ECU’s Twarog serves as curator of the plaza. “It’s quite an honor to be the custodian of the installation. It is a gem,” he said. “It’s noted around the world, and it’s even more unique because it allows students to participate. There isn’t another installation like that.”

Four new pieces created by ECU professor Hanna Jubran’s sculpture students before installation in the Sonic clock tower.