As you enter Hardin Hall, you’re greeted with an artistic rendering of Clemson’s history. Some very abstract, others more representational, 84 tiles spread across a curved wall that stretches for 60 feet. Installed in 2004 in the then newly renovated home of the history, philosophy and religion departments, the project was sponsored by the Art Partnership Program and funded through the R.C. Edwards Endowment. Artist Kathy Triplett was chosen through a regional competition that spanned six Southern states.
“The title [“Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”] is inspired by the idea of the single cell and how it progresses to a complex organism,” said Triplett. “I used this idea of progression as a metaphor to represent the development and evolution of the University, from the initial spark of an idea in Thomas Green Clemson’s mind, through its expansion, diversification and growth into a complex and more open institution, which is in many ways like the growth of the individual student.”
The tiles range from the expected — commemorating Thomas Green Clemson and M.B. Hardin and the always present Tiger — to the unexpected — depicting the development of the Phorid Fly and the illusion of parallel lines.
In an interview in 2009, Triplett compared the work to a poem. “At first you grasp it with the heart,” she said.
Perhaps the best description comes from Denise Woodward- Detrich, director of Lee Gallery, who said, “Standing at either end of the installation, you can’t see the other end. Just like the arc of the University’s history.”