publication of the International Sculpture Center
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Sculptors in Boston
have a precarious existence. For a long time collectors had no idea what
to do with three-dimensional objects, and galleries were indifferent to
them. Public projects, notably the Red Line subway extension through Cambridge,
spawned some public works, although most of them were executed by out-of-towners.
In the early 1990s, a feisty group of artists took their fate into their
hands and formed a gallery dedicated entirely to sculpturetheir
own. It was the sole sculpture-only gallery in Greater Boston.
For a decade, Boston
Sculptors at Chapel Gallery in West Newton, Massachusetts, was a quirky
but much-needed presence in the suburbs west of the city. Now its
the end of an era for West Newton and the beginning of something new for
Boston Sculptors. The cooperative group left its spacious, low-rent space
at the end of last year and is in the process of relocating downtown in
Bostons South End. Although the new quarters look more like a white-box
art gallery, the artists say they will miss the cavernous ceiling of the
While the move was
necessarythe churchs new pastor wanted to have a say in what
was showna couple of members, fearing increased commercialism, have
dropped out. But the majority, as well as some supporters, think the change
will be beneficial. Nick Capasso, curator at the DeCordova Museum and
Sculpture Park, says, Theyre going to be much more noticeable
on the art map. And, it will free up their work. While there was something
very wonderful about the [chapel] spaceit challenged them to great
effectoverall theyve had to pay too much attention to it.
Most of us
finally came to terms with that space, said the groups founder,
Joyce McDaniel. Some artists never did work large enough and tended to
wall the chapel off into smaller rooms. But othersprimarily McDaniel,
Beth Galston, and Laura Baring-Gouldexploited it; Baring-Goulds
installation of lighted boats hanging in the dark space brought her to
prominence in Boston art circles.
By 1992 the space
had already been a typical gallery for 10 years, showing mostly paintings.
When McDaniel, a member of the church, discovered that it was closing,
the idea that it could become a sculpture gallery really grabbed
me. McDaniel remembers taking her sculptor friends and others into
the chapel for the first time: Everyone saw the space. Until then
we had been looking at it from the waist down. McDaniel recruited
Murray Dewart, a woodcarver, and they made a proposal to the church. The
church was very supportive. They saw it as part of their outreach,
Dewart and McDaniel
assembled the core of the cooperative from a group of sculptors who had
dinner at Dewarts house once a year. They filled out their optimum
number of 18 (later to rise to 20) by invitation and jurying. McDaniel,
who had been the only woman in Dewarts dinner group, insisted on
gender balance, and that has remained a policy. Joyce was essential,
said Peter Lipsitt, who works in various metal media. There was
a tendency for the rest of us to let things slide, because we knew it
would get done. McDaniel admits, I took the lions share.
Nobody asked me to. I loved it. I wanted the gallery to succeed.
Every two years,
each artist had a one-person show lasting four weeks, a tight schedule
that left less than three days of turnaround time. I felt that a
regular schedule and regular hours were important if it was to be run
professionally, McDaniel noted. We each had to staff it once
a month. I dont think anyone felt it was too onerous.
Their bold gamble
paid off in attention from curators. Dewart, now making large timbered
gates, has snagged commissions as far away as Beijing. Galston
did a public works project in Arizona; Robert Schelling was tapped for
a multi-part work at one of Bostons transit stations. Joseph Wheelwright
was selected to mount a year-long show on DeCordovas Sculpture Terrace.
Ken Hruby, an Army veteran, joined fresh out of art school and generated
critical acclaim for his anti-war pieces. The sculptors all agreed that
knowing they had to mount a biennial one-person show spurred them on.
Over their decade
together, the artists have not had much stylistic influence on each other.
We were all pretty secure in our visions, McDaniel says. What
did influence us was that spaceso demanding, so large, so present.
Of the founding members,
a dozen remain. Some have left town, one finds the new location inconvenient,
and McDaniel and Hruby have decided to move on. The move is going
to change the dynamic, McDaniel thinks. The issue downtown,
meeting that rent, is different and huge. The group decided to recruit
more sculptors by advertising, rather than by personal invitation as in
the past. Thirteen new members have been vetted to join the 15 veterans
who remain. The format in the new gallery involves two concurrent one-artist
shows, rather than one solo show at a time.
Renovation of the
new space has taken longer than expected, Dewart reports, and as of early
summer no opening date had been set. In the meantime, Boston Sculptors
has mounted a fall exhibition at the New Art Center in Duxbury, Massachusetts,
from September 21, 2003 to January 11, 2004.