Mysterious sculpture outside Spencer Museum, explained; two new books with KU connections

What IS that thing in front of Spencer Museum of Art? I don’t want to say it’s ugly — beauty, especially when it comes to art, is always in the eye of the beholder — but it’s a fact that the mystery object’s aesthetic is in sharp contrast to the museum’s sleek, manicured and symmetrically landscaped new facade.

The hulking sculpture looks like a piece of some ancient shipwreck. Heavy, rusty, jagged, perhaps decayed by brine. Definitely immobile.

Upon closer inspection, that’s not the case at all.

“Children of Days” is only temporary, said Elizabeth Kanost, communications coordinator for the Spencer. It’s a site-specific installation created by international artist-in-residence Sahej Rahal, of India, who installed it in late October and early November.

“That space in front of the museum has always been flexible and has often included work related to exhibitions,” Kanost said. Even with the museum’s recent renovation and reopening, it will continue to be.

Rahal sculpted the artwork using chicken wire and found objects from the University of Kansas and Lawrence recycling centers, using them as “armatures for futuristic sculptures made with cement colored to resemble terracotta clay,” according to the Spencer’s artist-in-residence profile. (Click here for more about Rahal and photos of the artwork under construction.)

“Children of Days” is on display in conjunction with the Spencer’s current exhibition “Temporal Turn: Art & Speculation in Contemporary Asia.” It runs through March 12 and also includes several other site-specific installations by visiting Asian artists on view inside the museum.

For those of you who get a break over KU’s winter break, maybe you’ll have time to check out “Children of Days” and “Temporal Turn.” You might also be interested in these new books with KU connections.

• A marching band legend: A year ago, my colleague Joanna Hlavacek wrote a story about KU’s inaugural Alyce Hunley Whayne Visiting Researchers Travel Award winner, Curtis Inabinett Jr., who was visiting KU from South Carolina to conduct research for a book. That book is now out, available on and through other sellers. It’s called “The Legendary Florida A&M University Marching Band: The History of ‘The Hundred.'” The book hinges on William P. Foster, a KU graduate rejected from the marching band here because he was black but who went on to create the famous marching band at the historically black Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

• Grammar for all: This book sounds writer-specific, but the pitch on implies it contains information we all need: “The easiest-to-use, most up-to-date grammar workbook for improving your daily communication… If you want to communicate with clarity and credibility ? if you want people to focus on what you’re saying, rather than how you’re saying it ? then you need to use excellent grammar.” “The Perfect English Grammar Workbook: Simple Rules and Quizzes to Master Today’s English” by Lisa McLendon goes on sale Jan. 10, in paperback and Kindle versions. Former newspaper editor McLendon teaches at the KU School of Journalism and is coordinator at the school’s Bremner Editing Center.

• I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at