There’s a new set of French fries on campus.
On Tuesday, the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art began the permanent installation of “Big Max,” a 33-foot-tall sculpture designed by John Raymond Henry. The red-painted sculpture consists of roughly 30,000 pounds of steel and a central beam resting on two intersecting beams.
Henry, who designed “Alachua,” the sculpture nicknamed “the French Fries” by UF students, said it took him roughly 20 years to complete the three-beam sculpture because of various roadblocks and the completion of other projects.
“When you’re building a piece that’s not commissioned for a specific site, you don’t have to rush,” he said. “You reach a point where you don’t know where to go with it, and you just let it sit. There’s no reason to push it.”
The piece is named for Henry’s grandson, a premature baby who weighed a pound and a half at birth and is now a 24-year-old student studying film in California.
“I was building this big piece, and his name was Max — Maxwell,” Henry said. “So I just called it Big Max, and I nicknamed him Big Max.”
Construction of the sculpture, which previously toured seven cities in Florida, began at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and finished in the early evening. The sculpture will receive paint touch-ups and a final cleaning before its completion Wednesday.
UF alumni Earl and Christy Powell donated the sculpture to the Harn Museum.
“We’re very excited to have this new focal point for the UF Cultural Plaza,” said Tami Wroath, the director of marketing and public relations at the Harn. “It’s a work of contemporary art, and that’s one of our collecting areas at the Harn.”
The few people who walked by the construction site had a favorable first impression of the new piece.
“It’s actually really cool,” said Jasmine Naamou, a 19-year-old UF international studies freshman. “I like the contrast of the red. I was thinking of the French Fries when I was looking at it.”
Pam Hightower, a 32-year-old UF alumna who now works for UF Student Affairs, said she liked that the piece ”brings something that’s in the middle of campus kind of to the edge and connects them.”
Henry said he hadn’t thought of a nickname for his new sculpture, although someone told his wife, Pamela, that it should be called Big Mac instead of Big Max.
“They should have a contest for the best nickname,” Henry said.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 2/12/2014 under the headline "French fry sculpture gets new cousin"]