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  Mummy, move over

Over the years, the Fleming Museum’s mummy — small in stature, large in star power — has ranked as the piece most likely to elicit a “cool” from younger patrons. Not so this summer when Lars-Erik Fisk’s Volkswagenball was parked in the Wolcott Gallery for a three-month stay.

Fisk, a 1993 graduate of UVM’s Art Department, has made his way as an independent artist and artistic director for the Phish boys, designing stage sets and other works for the band’s periodic summer extravaganzas. Since 1996, he has turned his attention to a number of large sculptural spheres (aka jumbo balls) — Barn Ball, School Bus Ball, and UPS Ball, among others — that are remarkable for both sense of humor and craftsmanship.

Applying artistic vision, skill, and a welding torch to a discarded propane tank and a handful of old VW parts, Fisk has created quite a thing to see. To some, unfortunately, it also seems to be a thing to touch. That made for a vigilant summer for Maren Biel ’04 and her fellow museum monitors. The challenge is apparent one day in July when a visitor walks in and immediately raps on the “hood” as if he’s at a used-car lot. Biel politely says, “Please don’t touch.” Ten seconds pass, and the same guy asks another visitor, “Can we touch this?” Uh, no.

Biel reports that the windshield was regularly fogged by the breath of those peering into the cockpit, which demands peering because it is snug and appears capable of an undersea expedition with Jacques Cousteau. A troop from the campus childcare was, happily, on their best behavior when they gathered on the floor to draw their own interpretations of Fisk’s gleaming orb.

For his part, the artist is pleased to hear that museum goers find his work “mindfully engaging” and adds, “In a perfect world, we could let people pop a door open, get inside, and take a spin.”
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