Lives Through Art
Po Tolo - Sculpture Garden
Tyrone Mitchell's (born 1944, Georgia) outdoor work for Winston-Salem State University is titled Po Tolo, the Dogon word for the star Sirius B. It is the most ambitious public sculpture on the campus and, as is the case with all of Mitchell's work, unites several aspects of African culture with contemporary, western sculptural concerns.
Mitchell has stated that the basic form of Po Tolo comes from his contact with the architectural remains of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, in particular their thin, stone, serpentine walls. This piece also is in the vocabulary of the most recent public art. Rather than being an object in the landscape, it is an environmental work, a physical place to be entered that reverberates with the artist's intentions.
In Po Tolo a circular wall (40 feet in diameter) is broken into three embracing units. Each unit is pierced, so that the viewer/pedestrian can either physically pass through the ring into the inner sanctum by walking through the openings or else one can stand outside the circle and look inward through the openings. In the center are two concentric circles. One is at grade level. The other raised. together they become a platform for a large granite stone. Mitchell has thus enshrined the stone so that its power as an object of veneration is clear. The stone is an abstract shape that appeals to the modern eye. It also emits a mythic energy, that is the Dogon tradition, communicates a spiritual approach to our understanding of the universe.
Mitchell's indoor sculptures also strive to unite many sculptural and philosophical traditions-African, Asian and Contemporary Western. His formal language possesses a rich symbology about humankind and its relationship to the natural world - a concern of many cultures both ancient and modern.