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Now named Sudama, Elyn Zimmerman's sculpture is composed of five oversized granite boulders arrayed around a crescent-shaped water feature.

Set in Stone

An acclaimed art installation finds new life on the campus of American University

Elyn Zimmerman’s monumental stone sculpture Marabar graced National Geographic’s DC campus from 1984 until 2023, when it found a new home—and a new name—at American University. The saga began in 2017, when the National Geographic Society announced plans to remove the installation due to a campus redesign. Ojai, California-based Zimmerman had resigned herself to the loss of her first large-scale installation when The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) intervened in 2020, galvanizing support among museum directors, art directors, scholars and journalists for protecting the sculpture. Ultimately, Zimmerman selected AU’s scenic campus as a new site and National Geographic paid for the relocation. 

Now named Sudama, the sculpture is composed of five oversized granite boulders weighing some 450,000 pounds, arrayed around a crescent-shaped water feature; the highly reflective rock surfaces mirror one another. The installation was slightly reconfigured in its current iteration near the Abraham S. Kay Spiritual Life Center. “The size and shape of the pool were changed and rocks were positioned around existing plantings,” the sculptor notes. “The new setting made the piece look new and unique, so it needed a new title.” Both of its names were inspired by 3,000-year-old caves that figure in E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India; they are celebrated for their mirror-polished walls carved from solid rock.

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