publication of the International Sculpture Center
It: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Sculpture Symposia
by Barry Tinsley
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Monaghan, Chicagoscape, 2003. Steel, 12 x 20 x 10 ft.
Symposia are filled
with the energy that artists often need to refresh their creative batteries.
These experiences force us into unique situations that require the kind
of out of the box thinking conducive to the creation of new
sculpture. Last winter, while I was looking out over my new outdoor studio
space in New Carlisle, Indiana, I began thinking of other outdoor studios
where I had attended sculpture symposia.
Two symposia came
to mind. One was held in Chicago in the fall of 1985 along Printers
Row. I attended the other one, held in the fall of 1991 in the Republic
of Georgia, with fellow Chicago sculptor Terrence Karpowicz. This two-month
symposium was held in Rustavi, which is just south of the capital, Tbilisi.
In reminiscing about the vitality that these symposia brought to my work,
I found myself longing to participate in such a symposium again. And with
my new studio space, it seemed fitting that I should be the host.
In the early planning,
my proposed symposium seemed quite simple: invite five to eight sculptors
to spend a week at my studio at the end of August. During that time we
would create some new work and enjoy the unique kind of fellowship that
only artists know.
My outdoor workspace
is less than a couple of hours east of Chicago. It is surrounded by prize
corn and soybean fields and provides ample access to hardware stores and
lumber yards. On the nearby campus of Purdue University North Central,
a rolling expanse of more than 300 beautifully landscaped acres, fellow
sculptor/curator S. Thomas Scarff, along with the universitys marketing
director, Judy Jacobi, had created an outdoor sculpture exhibition. In
the four years since its beginning, the show had evolved into a distinctive
cultural landmark of both the Purdue North Central campus and the entire
region, and it was time, this year, to take the exhibition one step further.
I told Tom of my
plan to host my own symposium and asked if we could display the sculptures
on the nearby Purdue campus. He was excited about the idea and presented
the plan to the university. The chancellor supported it enthusiastically.
With a venue and some much-needed funding, the symposium was about to
Tom and I decided
we should invite sculptors who were good friends and who had worked in
the kinds of materials that would survive the harsh winters of the Lake
Michigan snow belt. The chosen sculptors were mostly from Chicago. Mike
Helbing would be working on a stainless steel piece. Derick Malkemus and
Pat McDonald planned to work in cast concrete and steel. Terrence Karpowicz
was combining granite and steel in his piece. Bob Emsers work was
to provide an interior environment for the observer, and so he was hoping
to experiment with some new materials. Finally, the two senior citizens
of the group, New York sculptor Richard Heinrich and I, both fabricated
pieces from one-inch steel plate. With the rental of portable welders,
along with my 18-ton Grove crane and forkliftpretty much all the
tools we could think ofand with our plans, maquettes, and materials
assembled, we were ready to go.
Helbing, Skynet with Objects, 2003. Stainless steel, 5 x 22 x 6
When the sculptors
arrived Sunday evening, we wasted no time in catching up with each other.
Instead, we grilled some food, popped open some cold ones, and spent the
evening sharing our plans and sculptural ideas.
August is usually
a hot and humid month in the Midwest, and this year was no exception.
Mosquitoes and other flying nuisances succumbed to our somewhat effective
bug sprays, and thoughts of childhood camping experiences crossed our
minds. A major thunderstorm came through in mid-week and took out the
electricity for several days. With some quick thinking, we immediately
dedicated one of our welder/generators to power the refrigerators. After
all, we could take turns welding but warm beer was unheard of.
The power outage
also meant no power to the water pump. Fortunately, I had ordered a port-a-potty
to relieve the use of my rural septic system. It was now a lifesaver.
Speaking of lifesavers, the in-ground swimming pool that came with the
house was just that. Given that we were seven hot, stinky guys with no
air conditioning, the chilly water was a blessing.
these events revived thoughts of some of the experiences I had encountered
at the symposium in Soviet Georgia, where electrical power had been hit
or miss and hot water rare. The great thing about the pioneer spirit thrust
upon us was that without lights, we had a lot of time to sit through candlelit
evenings, talking, thinking, and solving issues of the day. Ideas flew
back and forth, and we enjoyed some of the best give and take about the
arts of life and sculpting.
As the week wore
on, several other sculptors joined us to lend a helping hand, take a dip
in the pool, share some food, and join our evening talks, slide shows,
and critiques. Some of these sculptors were working on sculptures that
also would be exhibited at the Purdue North Central campus. Jessica Swift
was adapting two stained glass works into freestanding pieces for interior
light-bathed windows in Purdues Technology Building. Brian Monaghan
was using large rolled steel tubing and curved steel I-beams to create
a piece to be displayed on the highway drive-by gallery, as
it has come to be known. John Bannon was creating a complex, interactive
neon sculpture, which promised to add drama to the highway, especially
during the nighttime, when thousands of students commute to campus for
Tinsley, Springville Portal, 2003. 18 x 10 x 3 ft.
John Mishler and
Phil Shore contributed existing sculptures, and Sherry Giryotas re-configured
a 1,500-pound beeswax installation resembling a fortress, its fragrance
drawing the curious to a site in the library. Michele Goldstrom contributed
a community of five bronze hemoglobin cells. All of these
new works joined some 15 pieces already on campus by Tom Scarff, Steve
Hokanson, Michele Goldstrom, John Adduci, Michael Young, Dessa Kirk, Rob
Lorenson, and David Nelson, as well as the brightly painted Alexanders
Circus by the late Zelda Werner.
The symposium experience
was a lot like graduate school, except that you now have all those years
of experience to really appreciate the fact that your only responsibilities
consist of working, eating, and sleeping. The symposium isolates you from
the real world for a short period of time and in doing so, allows you
to focus on your work and the fellowship of other sculptors with diverse
ideas and methods of working. Like Thoreaus Walden Pond, this nine-acre
wooded area gave us time to reflect, re-energize ourselves, and come together
in the spirit of cooperation. It was truly an exceptional week and experience.
With the coordination
and cooperation of curator Tom Scarff and Purdue North Centrals
exceptional physical plant and maintenance crews, the pieces were installed.
On October 9th, the universitys Odyssey 200304 exhibition
opened, and the fruits of our labors debuted to a tremendously enthusiastic
community. The show continues for one year and can be visited on the Web
or in person by contacting Judy Jacobi at 219.785.5593 or at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.