On the steps of Grawemeyer Hall sits “The Thinker,” the signature statue of the University of Louisville. Scuplted by French artist Auguste Rodin, the pensive figure often evokes feelings of contemplation from passing onlookers.
However, if Rodin’s sculpture doesn’t provoke a sense of reflection among the student body, the water bottle version might just do the trick.
Students from Group Recycling and Sustainable Solutions, or GRASS, a recognized student organization, unveiled a scaled-down version of “The Thinker” on April 3, which was constructed using discarded water bottles found on campus.
According to Andrew Hockenberry, a junior geosciences major and vice president of GRASS, the art project stemmed from a campaign to phase out single-use plastic water bottles on campus.
“Plastic cannot be recycled into other plastic bottles; it gets downcycled into something that’s not reusable, whereas aluminum cans can become aluminum cans later on,” explained Hockenberry.
When asked where the idea to create an environmentally conscious art project originated, Hockenberry said that, “the idea to build a sculpture out of bottles to raise awareness has been floating around GRASS for a while now. We just needed someone to coordinate, and I had some art experience, so I was happy to step up.”
Hockenberry added that there were approximately 100 water bottles used in the creation of the statue, which was held together using biodegradable cellulose tape.
The statue currently sits indoors, near the west side entrance of the Ekstrom Library and is mounted on top of a papier-mache model of Earth, symbolizing the global impacts of waste and consumerism.
“We had about 15 students working on the sculpture,” said Hockenberry. “People helped make different extremities while some helped paper mache the Earth at the base.”
The sculpture was assembled on-site on the front steps of Ekstrom Library.
Laura Krauser, a freshman history major and secretary of GRASS, said she hopes that the plastic “The Thinker” will make students question their use of water bottles.
“I hope it makes a statement about disposable things in our lives,” said Krauser. “There are a lot of things that we use on a daily basis that are disposable, so we’re just trying to get people to think about alternative ways of living.”
A poster sitting beside the sculpture, also made by the students from GRASS, explains that drinking water from the tap instead of from prepackaged water bottles can actually save a person money.
The trifold argues that a volume of eight, eight-ounce disposable bottles of water will cost the consumer a total of 259.84 dollars if drunk every day for a year, based on a 4.48 dollar estimate for a pack of 16 eight-ounce bottles. That same volume of water would cost a mere 46 cents if poured from the tap.
Photo by Simon Isham/The Louisville Cardinal