In the encircled garden alongside Schlesinger Library in Radcliffe Yard, the oracle Portentous receives and transmits knowledge, ancient wisdom guiding future voices. The bronze sculpture by Marianna Pineda was dedicated to Constance E. Smith, the first dean of Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study (1961-1970).
“The physical form is set off or liberated from normal worldly boundaries. The feet are not connected to the ground. They are kind of floating. And the arms are kind of out of control,” observes sculptor and artist Nora Schultz, assistant professor of Visual and Environmental Studies. “It is shifting into another sphere, where gesture, gravity, and weight mean something different.”
Portentous is just one of the outdoor sculptures — cast in bronze, carved from marble, or chiseled from stone — that dot the campus, inviting contemplation, inciting inspiration, at times challenging perception. They occupy both public and private spaces, silent but monumental parts of the Harvard-Radcliffe community.
“Every day you go this way to work or school, you always pass the same object and you develop a certain relationship with it. You see how it changes with different seasons,” Schultz said. “They can really influence phases of your life in a certain way.”