News Column

Sculpture Garden

May 16, 2014

By Lana Sweeten-Shults, Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Texas

May 16--changing of guard

"Art is the proper task of life," according to Friedrich Nietzsche.

And so nine artists have been tasked with creating something beautiful, thought-provoking, provocative, technically marvelous and humorous -- one, all or some of those things -- for the 10th "Art on the Green," the Kemp Center for the Arts' Sculpture Garden Invitational Exhibit.

The exhibit opens with a garden party on the Kemp lawn from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

This week, 10 sculptures that have been on display as part of the yearlong 2013-2014 exhibit are being changed out for new pieces by Texas artists Susan Budge and Brandon Nepote of San Antonio, Erin Cunningham and Brooke Gassiot of Austin, Julia Ousley of Arlington, Ben Woitena of Houston and Suguru Hiraide of Wichita Falls, who is originally from Nagano, Japan.

While in 2013, two sculptors came from Japan to be a part of "Art on the Green," this time around, two sculptors from outside Texas will be included in this year's group of artists, Isaac Duncan III of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Andrew Light of Lexington, Ky.

"We didn't want to have anyone, or to duplicate anyone, who has been in the exhibit the last nine years, so that has been a little bit sticky -- to have found 90 artists (already featured in past exhibits) working in outdoor sculpture," said Kurt Dyrhaug, professor of sculpture at Lamar University in Beaumont, who participated in the 2013-2014 "Art on the Green" as a guest artist and this year serves as curator. " ... I think what's the difficult part in making outdoor sculptures is that it's not an easy task. There's an expense and hauling the pieces."

But Dyrhaug has found nine artists who work in different media and with diverse styles, as well.

"I wanted to have a variety of perspectives," Dyrhaug said, while at the same time keeping a certain cohesiveness to the exhibit. " ... As curator, it's always an interesting task of selecting a diverse body of work that's going to work together.

"Some of the artists are pretty established sculptors. A few other artists I selected are less experienced. They have wonderful work in the studio but haven't worked outdoors."

Wichitans will be familiar with the work of Hiraide, associate professor of art at Midwestern State University. Hiraide is known for his kinetic sculptures, which tout a certain mechanical ingenuity to them. Pieces in past exhibits have explored the phenomenon of the pachinko machine, a gambling machine popular in his home country of Japan, complete with moving pieces and blinking lights and other manner of sensory overload. Other work has included robotic structures and motion-activated switches and pieces that include architectural features of Shinto and Buddhist shrines.

"I'm excited to have him a part of the exhibition," Dyrhaug said. "He has a different perspective, and his work is crafted impeccably well. So I'm looking forward to seeing his piece."

While Hiraide employs metal in his pieces, sculptor Susan Budge, a professor at San Antonio College, will add a different element to the show.

"One of the artists I've known for some time, Susan Budge, works primarily in ceramics, so it'll be interesting to see a large ceramic piece."

Julia Ousley, "She was an architect earlier on in her career, and so she uses plate steel that slides together like a house of cards," Dyrhaug said. "She has plasma-cut various designs that go together like a cardboard house."

Ousley, after owning her own small architecture firm, turned to sculpture in 1995. She earned a master's degree in art at the Pratt Institute and travels between her studio in Dallas and one in New York. Her style is conceptual abstractionism, and she often uses common building material in her sculptures, considering her architecture background.

"Often her method is that of task and crafts associated with traditional women's work, like sewing and weaving," according to her artist's statement.

"Erin Cunningham, I've known her for quite some time," Dyrhaug said. "She works primarily in small metals and jewelry but also in cast metal. Her work always has this wonderful texture of lace. This is her first time doing anything large scale."

Lexington, Ky.-based Andrew Light, who operates a sculpture studio and custom fabrication business, has worked in several skilled trades. He apprenticed as an iron worker and was a studio assistant to Chattanooga, Tenn., sculptor John Henry. He also worked for the British Open Air Museum of Steel Sculpture as a workshop and foundry technician.

"Art on the Green" contributing artist Isaac Duncan III of Chattanooga also worked with Henry.

"Their work has more of an abstract metal fabrication component to it," according to Dyrhaug.

Brandon Nepote, who runs Grindstone Gallery and Studios with his wife, Ashley, is an artist known for his wood and steel sculptures.

"And then Ben (Woitena) I met, it's been a few years ago -- we were both in an outdoor show in San Angelo ... He has incredible work he's been producing for a long time."

Houston City Magazine'sPeter Schjeldahl said of Woitena's work, "Ben Woitena is one of the few serious sculptors in Houston (a painting town, for some reason) and one of the few of that few who work really large, in metal ... he's the central-casting model of a big-scale welding sculptor: muscled, intent, full of energy and purpose ... He draws and makes small sculpture, but the juice for him is obviously in the big stuff ... His way with steel in space is lyrical and potent."

Finally, contributing sculptor Brooke Gassiot grew up on a 2,000-acre ranch west of Austin. Her father was a carpenter and mother a textile artist, and so Gassiot inherited that love of art.

Her work now is a series of sculptural light boxes and large-scale installations.

"She is primarily a video artist, so her work outdoors is going to be interesting," Dyrhaug said. "I know she's going to be requiring electricity -- again I'm trying to give people an opportunity who haven't worked in an outdoor realm but who are powerful artists."

The sculptures, once again, will be placed under the watchful eye of Throckmorton sculptor Joe Barrington, installer.

All the works in the show are original pieces that have not been shown at the Kemp Center previously. The exhibit is funded in part by a grant from the Fain Foundation/Martha Fain.

"It was an honor to be selected as a curator, and I'm really looking forward to seeing everybody at the Kemp and the folks in the community -- and working with Joe Barrington, who pulls everything together and makes this happen."

Following the garden party Saturday, "Art on the Green" may be viewed through May 2015.


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Source: Wichita Falls Times Record News (TX)

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