September 7, 2010                                         

AMHERST, Mass. – On Saturday, Sept. 18, at 5 p.m. in Kirby Theater at Amherst College, 14 sculpted busts of Richard Fink, the George H. Corey Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, will be ceremonially destroyed. Admission is free.

One of the 16 busts used in the work

The event, titled The Decimation of Professor Richard Fink, is simultaneously a performance art piece and a work of sculpture conceived and created by Mark Oxman, formerly a professor of sculpture at Amherst and now director emeritus of the Sculpture Program at American University in Washington, D.C.

The work begins as a series of 16 life-sized portrait heads modeled from life and cast in plaster. These are unique works, not multiple copies or editions. Fourteen of these heads will be smashed in a seven-minute span. Only two will be saved. The entire process — from selecting the survivors through the ritual of decimation — will be captured on video.

Classically, a “decimation” is the killing of one in 10 people (such as soldiers in a battle). In the 21st century, the term is much looser and in this case refers to the one in approximately 10 who survives. The two surviving sculptures will be enhanced and made rare by the destructive event that takes their fellows.

Senior Resident Artist Peter Lobdell will collaborate with three student majors in theater and dance to create the event that destroys 11 busts. Three others will just happen to shatter.

Oxman and Fink became friends in the 1970s when Oxman taught at Amherst. Upon his retirement, Oxman moved to South Amherst, where he maintains his home and studio.