Thursday, January 20, 2005
Conversations with . . .
'Sculpture in the Hayloft' features artists
who are working to stretch their boundaries
|Conversations: Looking back|
|Click here for more arts talk.|
Currently on display in the Jacksonville Center's Hayloft Gallery is "Sculpture in the Hayloft," featuring work by Brad Whitney, Joseph Kelley, Mitsunori Koike and Suzanne Nees. Koike, an internationally recognized sculptor from Matsumoto, Japan, will include a stone sculpture installation. Also on display will be puppets and mixed media sculpture by Kelley, granite sculpture by Nees and installation art by Brad Whitney featuring elements from the Ball Dairy Farm in Bluefield, W.Va. Whitney, Nees and Kelley recently sat down to discuss their work.
How did you get into sculpture?
Brad Whitney: This is the first piece I’ve done professionally. . . . My focus over the last 10 years has been painting and photography, so it’s been kind of interesting moving to three dimensions.
Joseph Kelley: I mostly do drawing and painting as well. I guess it was in 1996 or ’97, I found this big sheet of plywood I was gonna do a painting on, and I ended up doing a relief carving. I had always carved and whittled. I ended up doing that carving, and then I did a few more on big panels. And I was driving around, I guess in ’99 or 2000, and I found this piano on the side of the road and it was all bashed apart, and I picked it up without having any idea what do with it. I just noticed the wood was really nice, so I started carving that and making the puppets and stuff from the guts of the piano.
And I was using those to incorporate into this story about where I live because I live right on a waterfall out in Cedar Run. . . . They’re sort of all grotesque figures, all sort of forming a narrative . . . I started by making this film two or three years ago . . . and I thought it would be cool to make another. . . . I had heard this story, I don’t know where it’s from, I guess in Haiti and a couple other cultures . . . waterfalls are a symbol, there’s supposed to be connections between the spirit world and the world of the living, so I thought that it would be really interesting to make all these puppets as spirits or something from the waterfall.
So the story evolved where this character comes out of the waterfall . . . a naïve naive spirit that wanted to escape from the spirit world, and he escapes and this piano falls from the sky and he starts making these figures out of it that advise him how to escape from the other spirits who are trying to pull him back into the waterfall. . . . So basically he’s building these wings out of the piano.
What’s the physical process of putting these things together?
Sue Nees: Tinkering, for me.
BW: Me, too . . . it’s just something about the piece of wood.
SN: Yeah, for me it’s that, too. It’s the material, just getting pulled into the material . . . and then doing whatever you get curious about.
BW: For me, I guess because of my background in interior design, which is so spatially oriented . . . how can I affect space or create space within this piece of sculpture, so it’s not just an object but the space moves through the piece?
JK: I’d definitely say that’s true, with your piece.
BW: So there’s that element to the piece I made. But my process, really, with this piece, it’s just a progression of a series of work that I’ve already been working on with photography and painting and drawing on the Ball Dairy Farm . . . over the last six or seven years. It’s such a beautiful place, such an inspiring place. It’s inspired a lot of work in regard to drawing and photography. So it was kind of interesting when Sue asked me if I’d be interested in making something. . . . It finally occurred to me, this place [the Ball Dairy Farm] has inspired me in so many other ways — try to work from the farm.
And years ago . . . we found an old wagon wheel, and I asked if I could keep it and I didn’t know what I was gonna do with it at the time. I thought I was just gonna take it home and use it for some ornamental decorative purpose. . . . And then Sue asked me to be part of this exhibit and I knew exactly that hoop . . . was gonna be part of the sculpture. So based on that circle, I designed the piece . . . it even goes back to the geometry of the circle and an element also in this piece of sculpture, which is a square form, which is actually gonna be a pool that holds milk, and then the tripod, which is based on number three. You know there’s a purity of geometry, and it connects back to meditation and inspiration — the peacefulness, the harmony that the Balls have with their farm over the course of about three generations of working and loving the land. So I was trying to pay homage to that connection that these people have through this piece here.
JK [to Monroe]: I thought it was interesting what you were asking [in a previous article] about art in an academic setting.
Sometimes it doesn’t affect anything or anyone, but it works on some weird detached intellectual level. To me those always have to be combined — an intelligent ideology behind what you’re doing, hopefully, or some kind of real investigation from an intelligent point of view as opposed to the totally intuitive "I don’t know anything about art, I just pull it out of the void, and if I’m not doing that it’s not valid."
BW: The thing that you’re talking about, and I think it’s relevant to all of us here, it’s not only that there has to be something behind it in a way but the thing has to exist on its own. [To Kelley] Like with your piece, when you explain all these things it’s really interesting, but it also exists on just a visual level. It’s good, it’s interesting.
SN: And why I invited these guys is I knew they wouldn’t try to pull that, "I’m an artiste, and so it’s your job to figure it out." And I knew that their work will stand on its own and not put the audience on the defensive already, like "Oh, this is an IQ test and I failed."
"Sculpture in the Hayloft" will be on display until Feb. 28. An opening reception will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday with old-time music provided by the Wild Turkeys. Click here for more information on this exhibit.