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Holding Impact

Amie Esslinger, Holding Impact, 2023
Cohen Memorial Hall atrium through 2023

Imagine two neutron stars captured in each other’s gravitational force—orbiting each other, the tension building as their tentacles of energy begin to reach out and become entangled. Finally, they collide in a massive explosion of gravitational waves that spew radioactive waste and heavy metals such as gold and platinum. This moment of destruction creates spectacular beauty but is challenging to comprehend and unsettling. Holding Impact captures an irreversible moment in which a series of eight distinctive multimedia installations by Atlanta-based artist Amie Esslinger have collided into one, creating a force that fills the space, conforms to the space, and breaks free from the confines of the space. What we are seeing is the collision of these separate works – the moment of impact – frozen in time.

Holding Impact disrupts the neo-classical—formal, symmetrical—architecture of the Cohen Memorial Hall atrium, but it is a dynamic work of art through which new ways of seeing the world is possible. Esslinger plays with scale, color, material, and texture to create a work that embodies these forces to excite a sense of awe and wonder—the building blocks of creating a sense of self and a sense of community. Our community is captured in the wallpaper behind Giovacchino Fortini's 18th-century bust of the Dauphin—a symbol of empire and opulence. Members of our campus and our Nashville community participated in art making with the VU Art Gallery to supply more than 12,000 yellow and red eyes and cells that symbolically capture the Dauphin and watch his every move.

Holding Impact was made possible with contributions by The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta and The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University.


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