From one viewpoint, the sculpture looks like an ellipse with a thick rim. In reality, it is a tilted, circular ring, 19 feet across. More than that, it ingeniously tracks the sun, casting distinctive shadows at different times of the year.
Titled Annual Ring, the weathered steel (COR-TEN) artwork was created by Northern California sculptor Roger Berry in 1987 and installed on the campus of Santa Rosa Junior College, California, in 2009.
Berry describes the form as a conical torus, about 25 inches wide and pitched at an angle of roughly 51.5 degrees, which is in the plane of the ecliptic, the apparent path the sun traces across the sky during the year.
At the time of the equinox, for a period of two or three days, the giant ring's shadow is simply a straight line on the ground all day long. Because of the sculpture's orientation, during summer, the north side basks in sunlight and the south side lies in deep shadow. The reverse happens in winter.
"If you pay attention to the piece," Berry says, "you can watch the passage of time."
Looming over a green area on campus, the sculpture is bound to appeal not only to art, astronomy, and mathematics aficionados but also to Frisbee enthusiasts. It's this variety of experience, unlike that with an object in a museum or art gallery, that makes public art on a large scale appealing to Berry.
"Any sculpture . . . that is out there ought to change and reflect and have a kind of life," he says. "It's not like a painting on a wall or a sculpture in a niche. It ought to in some way embody its setting."
Listen to Berry talk about Annual Ring on a Foss Creek Pathway Podcast from the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation.
Photos by I. Peterson