During the 2011 Loveland Sculpture Invitational show I met a woman who deeply fell in love with one of my sculptures She Loves Me. Although I did have some people say how much they enjoyed my gnome series, none was more passionate about She Loves Me than her. After a few emails and a trip to her inn to discuss details of the sculpture, She Loves Me was purchased by the collector and installed October 2011. The sculpture was the 3rd large scale piece I made that was not a commissioned piece. She Loves Me is a sort of portrait of the artist and was inspired by my girlfriend Jessica. Below is a quick snapshot of the sculpture in the garden of the inn near the entrance. I will take more pictures in the near future.
On October 31, 2011 I installed my sculpture Green Thumb for the city of Broomfield’s Art for Awhile program, a one year art on loan program setup in 2009 to display artwork, in particular sculpture. The five foot high sculpture is positioned on the west side of Broomfield’s Auditorium and Mamie Doud Eisenhower library and in between two other sculptures also selected for the one year program. Green Thumb is my second large scale sculpture that is not a commissioned piece. It is available for sale through the city for the duration of the program with a small percentage of the sale used to fund its permanent collection.
For the last few days I’ve been juggling 5 different projects at my studio and all of them with approaching deadlines. The most recent one is getting two of my 12×12 reliefs ready for shipping to a juried show in Illinois. This will be the first time I’ve exhibited my reliefs to the public so I’m excited to see if anything happens. “Rachel” and “Nude Study I” are plaster originals 12″x12″ that I will have for sale at the Illinois show November 4-December 22.
In the last few weeks I have felt the urge to expand my portfolio to include reliefs. This came about after talking with someone in the cemetery business who was saying that the popular way to memorialize someone is laser etching, not the traditional sculpted relief which has been around since forever. Laser etching is a process that takes an existing photograph and etches in exact detail onto a black granite headstone. In my opinion, it is cheap and unattractive and very representative of technology that cannot replicate what the human hand achieves-beauty. As much sophistication as our technology is, it still fails to prove to me and many others that it is has the ability to match the human touch. Of course, it is incredibly popular and it seems that every headstone that has some design on it has a laser etched image of the deceased. The problem that I see is that every single headstone is starting to look the same. Black granite with a highly rendered image. The other stones are not being used because black granite allows for the necessary contrast between the polished black surface and the etched part which is much lighter. The other stones would produce little or no contrast so they are not being used. So in a sense all of these headstones are looking the same. What I am hoping for in the future is for people to start to recognize that traditionally carved monuments or bronze plaques that are hand sculpted become more appreciated as they provide more options than what our technology can currently produce. Lets say that someone wants a portrait, but not flat, but slightly raised. Perhaps they want it raised another one inch. Perhaps they want a high relief. These are options a highly trained artisan can create, not a machine. It means that someone can have black granite or white marble. It will mean more cemeteries will have unique headstones and statues made of bronze and stone and will be beautiful as they once were before technology made them all ugly and monotonous.
So for the last few weeks I have been spending some time doing reliefs. I have done, to date, 6 of them and I have been very excited at each of them. I’ve casted a few in plaster and polished. Here is the last one I did, it is 12″x12″ and shown in clay. It is actually not round, but square and I used photoshop to make it round so I’m not all against technology.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be placing my 4 1/2 foot tall garden gnome called “Green Thumb” with the city of Broomfield’s art for awhile program. It is a one year art on loan program that was started in 2009. Nine sculptors were selected to display their works for one year and this will be the first art on loan program I have been involved in. I’m very excited about the opportunity and feel fortunate to have been selected. The sculpture will go just outside of the newly completed library near an open field. I will put pics up as soon as it is installed.
Earlier this year I was pondering if I should involve myself with art on loan programs that are popping up in many cities in Colorado like grandma’s bermuda grass sprouts up in her garden. I decided I might as well be on board. I was initially against the idea thinking that it would lessen the likelihood of a public art commission becoming available because a city would instead be investing in these art on loan programs which means they get a lot of art on city property for approximately one year at a time and therefore will spend less on commissioning an artist for a single work of art (phewwwwwww). It is really too good of an idea and I was vehemently against it (vehemently-geeeez, I’m never using big words). Well, I’m my wisdom I’ve learned it is wise to not be against anything, but rather for something. I thought what was I for. I was for getting public art commissions. Why? To make a living. Why? So I can do what I love to do. Why? So I can, wait a minute! Well, my conclusion was I wasn’t landing s..t as far as public art commissions so why not be gung ho for the other team. Besides it may be beneficial to have artwork with a city art on loan that way they can see if they like my work first rather than blindingly selecting an artist for a project. It got me thinking. Maybe this is why there is so much unappealing public artworks because it is hard to visualize how someone’s proposal will look. Committee’s are only seeing 8 1/2×11 proposals on a 2-d surface or 3-d maquettes at 1/12 the scale of the proposed piece. The art on loans offer something else. They introduce an existing artwork to the public for scrutinizing. If it doesn’t pass it is ignored and the city hands the sculpture back and says ‘see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya’. If it is a hit, the artist finds himself with some new friends and possibly a sale and some good publicity. While it is a financial investment to make a large sculpture it seems to be worthwhile in an ever increasing field of self titled ‘experts’ in the field in order to stand out above the rest. I feel that I am doing larger pieces because I want people and art committees to see that there is still something new that can be done with the human figure using traditional skills. There is some kind of movement going on and eventually they will listen. To me, it seems that everyone and their brother are applying for public art commissions and many of these commissions seem to be geared for the abstract I-beam artists. I’m not bitter, but I’ve realized that I’m becoming less and less against something and more and more for something and the art on loan can be the vehicle to express what I’m for. The something I am for is the new return to realism, to traditional skills. It is becoming more and more widespread as people are tired of explaining the concept behind the round rustic steel ball on the stainless steel teeter totter. We get it, art can be anything, a toilet bowl with R. Mutt or a decaying human hand in a glass box. But where is the beauty in that? Where is the beauty? Art, traditionally is about beauty. Modern art seems to be challenging that while all the traditional artworks have silently said ‘ok, go ahead, we don’t mind it being art’. But now, traditional art is breathing again. It is like it is saying ‘f..k this!’ I am following some of the realist artists in New York and Los Angeles and greatly admire their works and notice that some of them are creating movements of their own in response to the last 100 years of art history. It is with the greatest joy that I see a Jeremy Lipking painting or a Bruno Lucchesi sculpture. These artists are keeping alive the vision artists from the pre-Rodin’s era had. Actually they aren’t keeping alive, they are revitalizing art and inspiring young generations to create and challenge themselves in so many ways. As I’ve aged I’ve realized that today is a unique era in art history with a pluralism of styles. There are so many things going on it is mind blowing, but underneath it I am feeling and sensing a return to the beautiful. And oddly enough I am connecting the art on loan programs to this. For me it is a way to showcase my talent, but also to educate America that there is good artwork here. It is not just in Europe. It is starting to pop up here and there like, hmmmm, like my grandma’s bermuda grass I suppose some might say. Recently I had the opportunity to introduce the art on loan program to a city in California who had never heard of such a thing. I was asked to write a one page description and so I did and this is how it reads:
I’m thrilled to have sold my sculpture She Loves Me to a woman I met at the 2011 Loveland Sculpture show. The sculpture will be placed in an Inn west of Denver and I am quite excited and can’t wait to see it installed. The buyer will be pouring a concrete pad in the next few weeks and it’ll be placed in a small garden with flowers, a perfect setting! The inn also has a few other artwork that is faery related so this garden gnome will make plenty of friends out there. I am curious who he will be falling in love with so I will have to check back periodically to get updates. Actually me and Jessica stayed at their ‘tree house’ and it was a very pleasant stay. The tree house is the inn’s prized possession and it is three stories of magically designed architecture and interior decorating. We both hope to go back often to stay their. I’ll post pix of the sculpture after installation which should take place in the next month or two.
Jessica reminded me that I haven’t done a blog in quite a while and when I asked for her advice on subject matter she said don’t you have a project you want to say something about. And that I do. Soon after shipping 12 sculptures for the 2011 Hostfest I started on my next project. I was contacted through someone I know a couple of months ago and asked if I’d be interested in doing a memorial for a young woman who passed on 2 years ago. After meeting with the client and going over some numbers we began. The project is for a fairly large and old cemetery, dating back to around 1880. It’ll be located at the corner near one of the main entrances. The woman who is commissioning me wants to have snowboarding gear in bronze decorating the recently completed garden. It, being an old and traditional cemetery, will make for a unique memorial. In fact there is only one other memorial that stands out in the 300 acres of traditional headstones and occasional bronze statue and it incorporates water and plants with a bronze cross. This memorial will be just as beautiful without the water and cross. The client and I are both very excited at how things are shaping up. The snowboarding gear is now being molded so I hope to have it installed by Christmas of this year. It will be situated in the center of the rocks as if the young woman was putting her gear there while taking a break. While this is a project which doesn’t require a figure it is actually quite enjoyable and I’ve gotten to listen to many wonderful stories of her life. How quickly life is for some, vanished into the night but not forgotten.