24. A Point in Time

Artists: Otto Tjaden

A Point in Time

A Point in Time began the fulfillment of the dream of outdoor art by Fergus Falls campus art enthusiasts. The original maquette was created by noted regional artist Otto Tjaden around 1970, and the 9-foot welded metal sculpture was recreated by Fergus Falls metalworker Steve Jaenisch and funded by the Donald E. Dybdal Fine Arts Fund.*

Some believe that Tjaden, who died in 1982, created the original sculpture to commemorate the moon landing in 1969. The website created by his family recounts Tjaden’s writing about the sculpture:

This was made during the period when we sent men into space and at last to the moon. Each viewer will find his own meaning in his own time in his own space.

Tjaden and his wife, Hilda, and their five children lived in Fergus Falls, where he worked as a sign painter; his home shop also served as his art studio. There he created sculptures in diverse media including metal, wood, stone, ceramics, dripped lead and latex cement. The majority of his artwork was produced in the late 1950s through the 1960s.

From a 1978 audio tape of Tjaden in the Otter Tail County Historical Society collection:

It occurs to me that the chief reason I create sculpture in the first place is not because of its impact on someone else. The reason I do this thing is to express myself; to relieve my own mind of the emotional tension that builds up and creates an anxiety until it can be given expression.

Spending my life on only myself hardly seems worthwhile. If my art is to be at all worthwhile, it should have the power to influence – for good – at least part of the people. Even if we grant that its impact is felt by only a few, it might be worthwhile if the result was their inspiration and edification. This, of course, throws the responsibility back on me to create inspiring and edifying things and not repulsive or confusing things.

Steve Jaenisch grew up across the street from Tjaden’s Fergus Falls studio, and it was Tjaden who encouraged him as a sculptor. Charles Beck, the owner of the original A Point in Time, suggested creating the replica, which Jaenisch and Beck saw as a way to honor their friend.

Jaenisch was a member of M State’s first graduating class in 1962 and a well-known Fergus Falls metalworker who also created sculptures that stand outside the Otter Tail County Historical Society and the Fergus Falls Fire Department.

*The Donald E. Dybdal Fine Arts Fund was created by bequest from the estate of Donald E. Dybdal to Fergus Area College Foundation in 1999 to further enhance the visual arts at M State. The fund has been used to purchase visual art and support educational opportunities in the visual arts.