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Public Art Spotlight- Energy

This issue, the public art spotlight will be focused on one of the pieces that inspired the last arts and culture section editor to start this column. It’s a mysterious piece, that depending on which parts of the building it’s housed in you frequent, you may not even have seen all of it yet. Even finding out the piece’s real name was no trivial task, as it doesn’t appear on any list of art on the Colorado School of Mines campus.

The piece is most recognizable by the large stone frieze that separates the outer loop and inner loop of the southwest side of Arthur Lakes Library. The only place where I could find a name for the frieze was the mobile app Pokemon Go, which proclaimed it is named “The Human Unconformity”. The piece’s actual name appears handwritten by the artist on one of two stain-glassed panels currently hanging in the Boettcher room. According to the stain-glass, the name of the piece is actually “Energy” and it was made by Thomas Hölzer in 1988. With a name like “Energy,” one might assume that it was dedicated to the petroleum or mining department, but it was donated to Mines by Two United Bank Center. This information, which Lisa Dunn helped uncover, only seemed to add another twist to the rabbit hole that was “Energy”. Fortunately, when I reached out to him, Thomas Hölzer was able to provide a clearer picture of “Energy’s” history.

“Energy” was commissioned for the Two United Bank Center in Denver, Colorado, which itself is famous for the curved design of its uppermost floors as well as being the third tallest building in Denver. The real estate agent who owned Two United Bank center commissioned “Energy” as part of general improvements to the lobby area. In addition to United Bank, several offices in the United Bank Center were leased by fossil fuel corporations, who inspired the name “Energy”. The stained glass portion of the piece was manufactured in Hölzer’s studio in Boulder, Colorado. Hölzer originally studied art in his home country of Germany and later at the Pilchuck glass school in Washington. The Stone Frieze was manufactured in the studios of Franz Mayer of Munich in their oversea’s facility in New Jersey. FM of M, as the Frieze is emblazoned, is a world-class studio that creates stunning works in the mediums of mosaic, architectural glass, gold leaf, and more. Their work is predominantly featured in different churches around the globe, but as in the case of “Energy”, they also help artists to create public and private art. Together Hölzer and FM of M’s top mosaicist in New Jersey, Hannes Sellner, worked to create a single unified piece that spans across two different mediums. With a casual look, the frieze and stain glass appear chaotic and almost random. Upon further inspection, they reflect a feature common in Colorado’s landscape. When asked, Hölzer said, “the design as a whole was a take off on the magnificent strata so readily available to observe and experience in Colorado. [A] prime example, the I-70 cut-thru south of Golden”. It’s worth noting that in geology an unconformity is a portion of the earth’s crust where two different strata meet. Perhaps some rogue geologists unaware of the piece’s real name called it “The Human Unconformity”.

Despite being made for a Banking building in Denver and then being donated to Colorado School of Mines, “Energy” fits well on campus. Between still being frequently passed by petroleum engineers and now residing even closer to the strata that inspired it, it seems that “energy” has ended up somewhere it can call home. Now we all need to do our part to make it feel at home by recognizing it

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