Landmarks’ ‘Sentinel IV’ sculpture receives CODAaward in honor of Black femininity

Pili Saravia, General news reporter

Located in front of the Anna Hiss Gymnasium, Landmarks’ “Sentinel IV” received a CODAaward as a merit winner in the Landscape category. The sculpture was made by artist Simone Leigh, marking the first art by a Black woman permanently installed on campus. 

Logan Larsen, digital content commentator for UT’s Landmarks, said Landmarks selects works that draw on historical, curricular and contemporary connections to campus. 

“Landmarks is a curatorially driven program, meaning we select works that respond to the site they are envisioned for and in tandem with the rest of the collection,” Larsen said.

According to CODAworx, a commissioned art resource company, “Sentinel IV” depicts a bronze body honoring Black women, with abstract features representing unity amongst the women. A large Zulu ceremonial spoon replaces the woman’s head as a tribute to African practices that encompass strength, labor and celebratory traditions. The sculpture stands 10-feet tall, symbolizing watchfulness and protection over the gymnasium which once served as a segregated gym for women of the University. 

“We wanted to think about ways we could comment upon and dig into (the gymnasium’s) history,” Larsen said. “Having “Sentinel IV” on campus puts it in conversation with the history of the University and proposes questions about representation, space making and inclusion.”

While the placement helps transform a space of past mistreatment to more empowering grounds, it also enables stronger showcasing, Larsen said. This was Landmarks’ first opportunity to shape the courtyard around “Sentinel IV.” Centralizing the artwork, Larsen said Landmarks made the courtyard’s curves mimic the sculpture, while using the existing architecture as an overarching blue frame when viewed from Speedway. 

Kristian Petrov Iliev, marketing manager at CODAworx, said this made the sculpture’s meaning very “immediate.”

“It immediately informs you of how women have been seen or depicted by the gaze of society,” Iliev said. “(Because of) its location in the center by the doors, it’s watching over you. You just can’t ignore it.” 

Iliev said this placement played an important role in awarding “Sentinel IV” the merit CODAaward.

“There’s very few examples (of placemaking) better than ‘Sentinel IV,’” Iliev said. “It’s a symbol on the campus itself, and it stands there, welcoming people, reminding people of what is happening now, what has happened in the past and what will occur in the future.”

CODAworx looks for art that is educative and forward-thinking, CODAworx content manager Jenifer Wetterau said. She said 18 internationally-acclaimed design and art leaders voted on 406 entries from 27 countries, and they narrowed it down to 25 total awards. 

“I believe the CODAawards showcased ‘Sentinel IV’ because of the historical and contemporary relevance of the work, especially on a campus like UT,” Larsen said. “Having ‘Sentinel IV’ on campus puts it in conversation with the history of the University and proposes questions about representation, space making and inclusion.”