Reflections on Seeing the Art in the University of Alabama Law School Building By Professor Jay Murphy*
INTRODUCTION AND EXPLANATION: Elsewhere there is a tabulation of the types and varieties of the exciting objects of art in the Law Center. Indeed, there must be thousands. All found and obtained by one person, Dean Thomas W. Christopher, who over the years visited scores of museums, galleries, art stores, book- stores, and must have acquired hundreds and hundreds of cata- logues, brochures, and source upon source of places for art acquisi- tion. Speaking with him recently he paid tribute to his artist wife, Sadie, by saying: "I chose and ordered them. Sadie with her artis- tic talent made the crucial decisions on the framing and placing of them." I might add that Mrs. Christopher has generously con- tributed many of her own original painting creations to the Law Center and a series which consists of portrayals of historic court- houses of the state. Sadie Christopher has achieved an arrange- ment of the art forms integrated with the architecture of the Law Center, and with juxtapositions of works which only a gifted artist could perceive. There is at once a quiet fusion of growing plants, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, and other art forms as though in some miraculous way they all grew together as one.
But so much for explanation. A very strange phenomenon happened to me the other night. I really do not believe that I dreamed this experience, and this is the first time that I have men- tioned what happened to anyone, let alone in print, but I felt that if ever what happened was to be mentioned, this was the occasion for doing so. Here is my strange experience.
OBSERVER: I had stayed after midnight in the law school and was the only one in the building-I thought. But as I walked down the hall toward the first floor entrance doors, I heard the doors open and a great rustling of feet and subdued talking. Naturally, I
* Member of Law Faculty of The University of Alabama, 1948-1981.
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was curious who the late visitors might be. As I walked past the student lounge and came within view of the main foyer, I saw to my astonishment several people dressed in a wide assortment of garbs busily looking at the paintings on the wall.
I spoke but no one responded. I was unobserved although standing in their midst. I recognized one of the visitors as being the late Dean Roscoe Pound, the great legal scholar, who appeared to be the leader of the group.
Heavens, I thought, the law school was being visited by re- nowned spirits of the past-conducting some kind of a survey for whatever purpose I had nor have no idea.
I could not miss this rare opportunity to be in the presence of those from whom I had learned so much. I joined the group and listened and took notes, and it just so happened I (as usual) had a tape recorder with me. This is some of what I heard: SPEAKER: (In Black Robe) Well, sir (speaking to Dean Pound), what is all this art work doing in this Law Center? I thought that the centers on earth were to study law and not pictures and sculp- tures and ceramics. DEAN POUND: Yes, I can imagine that you were surprised on entering the Law Center to see paintings at first and not legal stat- utes and constitutions and cases and displays of robes and wigs. SPEAKER: But were you not surprised? DEAN POUND: Astonished, perhaps, and favorably so. SPEAKER: Why astonished? DEAN POUND: Because such a creative idea is quite unlike my recollection of the law schools I knew when on the earth. SPEAKER: Being something of a traditionalist, I fail to under- stand why you used the word "creative," because surely law is not paintings and paintings are not law, and all these squiggles and scrolls and splashes of colors and sculpture from all ages . . . in- deed, even cave paintings of very primitive people. I am quite at a loss to understand what connection this has with law. Look, for instance, if you please, at that Picasso reproduction over on the left as we entered the law school--odd looking representations of distorted looking faces and bodies, and that Chagall over on the right of people and cows and things floating around in the air. Now I do like that mountain over on the back wall. You can tell that it is a mountain. DEAN POUND: How interesting, dear friend, that you feel that the pictures or the sculptures should tell you some specific thing
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about some law, whether the law is good or bad, or what the law is, or what it should be, or what it was a t one time and how it might have changed and what caused the change; or maybe you are thinking of whether or not the "pictures" could have helped you on the bar examination which you took as a young lawyer. Is that what you are doing-wondering how you can learn about the spe- cific positive law by looking at art? SPEAKER: Well, I suppose so, in a sense. Why should I bother with looking at pictures and sculpture when there is so much to learn about the law. The pictures are distracting. DEAN POUND: Before trying to respond to your questions, let me ask how you think of the subject of LAW. How do you think when you ask yourself where law and laws come from? How they are made? Applied? Interpreted? By whom? Under what conditions? How do you think of law of all the cultures and countries and peo- ples of the world? Of North America? Of Africa? Of New York? Of Tuscaloosa? Of 10th Street in front of the law school? Of early Roman law? Of the early Common Law? Of ecclesiastical law? Of Islamic law? Of Buddhist law? Of Communist law? Of Eskimo law? Of "law" before there was written language? How you think of the law between nations? Of International Law? Of moral law? Of positive law? Of law as an ideal? Of law in the process of evolu- tion of cultures? Of law and science? Of law and technology? Of law and its relations to new insights about the mind? Of law and the impact of the invention of the wheel, of lasers, of DNA, of the Hydrogen Bomb, of the world's food supply, of the computer revolution now going on on the earth, of the need of food stamps, of the four billion population of the earth which is increasing, of new knowledge about the Universe and the origins of the Solar System, of the impact on law of the discovery of Extra Terrestrial Intelligence that the world's astronomers are thinking about? Of new insights into evolution, of the great controversy in the United States concerning creationism and evolution, of the MX Missile System which the United States is proposing to build, of the ICBMs which such great nations as the United States and the USSR have in bountiful supply, of the fact that most of the people governed by law in the world are illiterate, of the fact that popula- tionists tell us that in the 1980s there will be vast starvation of millions of people of the world, of the bountiful supply of food we see in the supermarkets of the United States, of the diverse reli- gious groups in the world, and the fact that among the many reli-
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gions each considers that its interpretation is the absolute truth, of the wars that have recently been fought, are being fought, and of preparation for wars which might be fought . . . So tell me, friend Speaker, do you ever think of law in the above contexts?
But, oh, let me say another word or two: do you ever think of law in terms of conflict resolution? Indeed, do you ever think of human conflict, whether conflict within oneself and difficulties of adjusting to others and to society, or to conflicts among institu- tions and groups, large and small, in society from the smallest area on the street corner to the largest area of conflict in the spaces about the earth or on the seas among single and groups of cultures?
Do you ever think of law in terms of procedures for resolving conflicts, of the professions, and forums, the manner of stating cases and of presenting and weighing and understanding evidence, or communication among conflict resolvers on all levels? Do you ever think of fitting in the present method of attempting to resolve conflicts with methods which have proven themselves or which have gone on before and some of which can be used and some cannot?
Do you ever think of the conflicts among and the complexities of the claims and demands of individuals and groups of individuals in society, and how these claims can be known, or identified or selected, and then how they can be weighed or tested to determine which claims should be preferred, which altered, which adjusted, and toward which ends or goals or objectives?
And do you think of such claims on all levels where conflict happens, or has happened or might happen, in the foreseeable fu- ture? This means the smallest area between A and B and the larg- est area between the largest collocation of groups of people?
And when you think about "Law" do you ever look at the his- tory of the peoples and the cultures where the law is involved, and the resources available in the land, in the air, in the water, and the capacities of the people and of their traditions, their religions and their institutions, and their customs, and their folkways and their mores?
Indeed, dear Speaker, do you think of the capacities of the human being to solve problems with his brain capacity, his emo- tions, the resonances which vibrate through his whole history of creation on the earth, whether you are an evolutionist (as I happen to be, being once a professor of Botany), or whether you are a crea-
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tionist and take humankind for what you find in them-as created by God independent of other forms of life-but then have you thought about the impact upon whatever you mean by law