Honorary Degree Recipient
Doctor of Letters
Richard Erdman, University of Vermont Class of 1975, is an acclaimed sculptor working in marble and bronze. An artist with a strong international following, he has had more than 160 solo and group exhibitions throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. In 1985, PepsiCo commissioned him to create the monumental sculpturePassage, which stands at the entrance of the esteemed Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo, considered one of the finest collections of twentieth century outdoor sculpture worldwide. Carved from a massive 450-ton block of travertine, the 25-by-16 foot Passage is the largest sculpture in the world carved from a single block of marble.
Mr. Erdman grew up in Dorset, Vermont, at the foothills of the oldest marble quarries in the United States. As a child he marveled at the cavernous shapes and formations of the quarries, their weather-beaten layers and textures enticing him to explore the mysteries of stone. He leaped from the walls to the water below, taking risks and engaging in a joyous physical relationship with the quarries. Cut away by a century of labor, the quarry cliffs and basins were playground and kingdom to Mr. Erdman, whose days were spent exploring the countryside around his home in Dorset. On Sundays he would sneak into the nearby Danby quarry, the world’s largest underground marble quarry, one and a half miles deep and almost 100 feet high at its most cavernous. The immense scale of the space and its compression of ancient time connected Mr. Erdman to the continuity of life. With stone—reluctant material and enduring record, ground and sanctuary—he was fully aware, fully awake—alive in the world. Stone ignited Mr. Erdman’s craving for a heightened experience of being alive, a quest that has fueled his four decades as a sculptor.
A two-time All-American skier in his undergraduate years at the University of Vermont and a 1989 Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Mr. Erdman pursued his early career in art with the same passion and energy he expressed as an athlete. As an art student at the University of Vermont, he found a mentor in artist-teacher Paul Aschenbach, who encouraged Mr. Erdman’s adventurous spirit by emboldening him to experiment with tools and materials, unfettered by the techniques of sculptural tradition. Under Mr. Aschenbach’s mentorship, Mr. Erdman translated his search for the outer boundaries of embodied human experience into a search for visual forms capable of expressing such experience, and of catalyzing it in others. At the start of his master’s program, a semester in the fabled marble region of Carrara, Italy, during which he connected with the skilled artisans of the region, set his focus on stone sculpture. Mr. Erdman later established a studio in Carrara, where he continues to work today.
Mr. Erdman’s first solo exhibition was held at University of Vermont’s Francis Colburn Gallery, which the artist credits as helping launch his career. After exhibiting in galleries across the country, he began showing at New York’s prestigious Weintraub Gallery on Madison Avenue.
This decade-long association resulted in Mr. Erdman’s work being collected and commissioned worldwide.
From his studios in Williston, Vermont and Carrara, Italy, Mr. Erdman creates sculpture that expresses vitality, fluidity, and love of movement. Merging a practice of centuries-old craftsmanship with visual experimentation, Mr. Erdman’s nuanced understanding of the materials with which he sculpts have led to the creation of a prolific body of work, from intimate maquettes to monumental sculptures weighing up to 50 tons. His work is held in collections in 50 countries worldwide for distinguished patrons, notably the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Princeton University, Tel Aviv Museum of Fine Art, Four Seasons Park in Singapore, King Faisal Foundation in Riyadh, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, the Rockefeller Collection in New York, and locally, the Robert Hull Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont. His sculpture Primavera, a gift of the University of Vermont Class of 2010, graces the front of Jeffords Hall.