Mary Ann Unger – The Temple

Hurricane Sandy leveled an iconic sculptural work of art that many of us passed by on our daily routine. As tribute to the art, the artist, and all who engaged with the work, we offer some information about “The Temple”

Created in 1987, The Temple came to Lehigh University’s Art Collection by a gift of Philip and Muriel Berman. The Berman family name appears on many gifts of sculptural art on our campus.

The Temple was a great piece for peaking curiosity. Frequently seen on campus tours, or played in, on, around – the Temple was a piece that invited engagement. One wonders how many students and campus visitors climbed inside to look at the perspective of the overhanging leaves; seeing the interplay of natural settings and a strict rhythmic symmetry of concentric circles webbed like a ripple effecting wheel. (Truth be told, I climbed this sculptural piece to drape it with white cloth for an AIDS awareness campaign)

At the time of this post, we are not certain of the fate of the piece. However, we feel it important to share some information about the artist that created it.


Mary Ann Unger was a celebrated sculptor best known for her large-scale works evoking the body, bandaging, flesh, and bone. She died of breast cancer in 1998. Roberta Smith wrote in her News York Times obituary, “(Mary Ann Unger’s) works occupied a territory defined by Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois. But the pieces combined a sense of mythic power with a sensitivity to shape that was all their own, achieving a subtlety of expression that belied their monumental scale.”

Born in 1945, Ms. Unger was raised in New Jersey and received an undergraduate degree from Mt. Holyoke College in 1967 and an M.F.A. from Columbia University in 1975.

She had numerous solo exhibitions, at the Sculpture Center in New York City, the New Jersey State Museum, the Klarfeld Perry and Trans Hudson Galleries, both in New York City, and a posthumous, 15-year retrospective at the McDonough Museum of Art in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2000. The first solo exhibition of Ms. Unger’s work in over ten years took place at the Maxwell Davidson Gallery in New York City in 2011.

She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1992, was the recipient of Pollock- Krasner Foundation grants in 1989 and 1995, and was a resident fellow at Yaddo in 1980 and 1994.

Ms. Unger’s works have been reviewed in The New York Times, Sculpture Magazine, Art in America, and The Village Voice, among many other publications.

Ms. Unger’s works are included in numerous private and public collections, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and the High Museum of Art.

Citation from Mary Ann Unger Estate website.

Here is an image of the Temple in it’s original color:

Collection of the Philip and Muriel Berman Sculpture Gardens, Lehigh University Art Galleries

Painted Steel, 10' x 15' x 6'
Permanent Commission by the City of Tampa, Public Art Program