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Arriving Home by Dennis Oppenheim

Arriving Home

A sculpture's campus color show

by Bob & Jorja Feldman

From the September, 2020 issue

Among the many advantages of living in Ann Arbor is the abundance of outdoor artwork strategically placed around the University of Michigan's campuses. Case in point is Arriving Home, a sculpture installed on East University mall during U-M's 2017 bicentennial celebration, and featured on the Observer's cover this month.

It's near the north end of the mall, between the Chemistry building and what was then C.C. Little and is now the 1100 North University building. (The former U-M president's name was removed in 2018 after staff called attention to his support for the racist eugenics movement.) While Arriving Home can be seen from North University, a decent view requires a short walk down the mall.

Viewed close up when the sunlight is fully on it, the sculpture is awash in shimmering, iridescent colors. The colors, and where they appear, change with the amount and angle of sunlight and the viewpoint. That ever-changing appearance comes from the fluorescent, multicolored Lexan plastic panels specified by sculptor Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011).

While the color show is enough in itself to warrant a visit, there is more to see. According to its page on, Arriving Home "uses the tapered extruded form of a house carved into a circle that evokes the cycles of departure, travel and return, with the gradual widening of the spiral suggesting the increasing anticipation of the arrival." The house form is visible in one of our pictures.

As far as we could tell, Oppenheim never explained why he chose the name Arriving Home. Artists who use descriptive titles for their works often choose not to elaborate, which leaves viewers free to add their own interpretation and engage more deeply with the artwork.

Oppenheim had a keen interest in the space where he placed his sculptures. For at least some of his works, he wanted them to meld with and become part of the physical surroundings, taking an inclusive view that the "art" should include the whole

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So it's easy to imagine that Arriving Home's name was inspired by the sculpture's original location: it was first displayed at the arrivals terminal at Vancouver International Airport in British Columbia during that city's bicentennial celebration.

The piece also spent time at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick, Canada before arriving in Ann Arbor in 2017. According to the webpage, it was the gift of "Jagdish Janveja (BA 1963) and Saroj Janveja (BA 1968) in appreciation of the University's dedicated staff, whose commitment and strength galvanize our never-ending mission."

Another donor also is credited: U-M president Mark Schlissel.     (end of article)

[Originally published in September, 2020.]


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