I love art. Plain and simple, I love art. Truthfully I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t like some form of art. Do you listen to music? You love art. Do you watch movies? Sorry, but you also love art. Art is a very broad term, so let’s narrow it down a little. Specifically, visual art.
I have always had an appreciation for the visual arts since I was young. I have learned drawing, painting, photography, and have had my fair share of art history classes. While I love these various forms of visual art there is one specific art form that I love the most. I’ll just cut to the chase, it’s sculpture.
I love sculpture. Sculpture is still some what of a broad art form but we’ll be discussing any sort of visual art that takes advantage of the third dimension. I first fell in love with sculpture during my senior year of High School, and I continued to pursue that love through college, eventually graduating with a BA in 3D Studio Art from Taylor University.
Whenever I tell people I have a degree in sculpture they immediately perk up. It’s not too often that you find a sculptor roaming the streets. People begin to ask a variety of questions, but the question I’ll be addressing here is, “Why Sculpture?”
Why do I love sculpture so much that I studied it through college? My immediate answer is that I love art that takes advantage of all three-dimensions. We live in a three-dimensional world and I love to create objects that take up the same space that we live in. Sculpture begs to be explored, walked around, viewed from different angles. You can view sculpture from up high, down low, near, and far. Sculpture escapes the confines of the museum walls and has the possibility to crawl across the floor or float through the sky.
I also love that sculpture can challenge our comfort level with the scale of art. I always say, “the bigger the better” when discussing sculpture. Large sculptures, massive monuments that push the limits of visual art, no longer invite the viewer to merely walk around them and their pedestal. Gigantic sculptures now invite the audience to explore their innards, walking through and underneath the space they occupy.
Above is a picture of Richard Serra’s Joe which I had the privilege of seeing at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis. Joe is one of those large sculptures that come to mind when I think of sculpture. It’s still not as big as other sculptures (See Christo & Jeanne-Claude or Anish Kapoor) but it still invited me to come explore it’s sheet metal walls. I soon found myself surrounded by rust-red as I walked the length of it’s spiral.
This is the type of thing I’m talking about. Sculpture invades the space in our dimension, and the only way to fully appreciate it is by exploring that space and interacting with the work.
There is another major reason for my love of sculpture. I don’t often get to share this with people in conversation because usually we have moved on to talking about something else after my first answer. I love sculpture because it appeals to more than one sense.
When people think of any visual art the obvious sense that appeals to the audience is vision. Other art can stretch this limitation beyond one sense. For example, movies appeal to our sense of sound through music or dialogue. Sculpture is a visual art that can appeal to the sense of touch.
Often times, touching artwork is frowned upon, and I completely understand that. Once you give the audience an “okay” to touch artwork you immediately run the risk of it being damaged. However I wish more artists would use their sculptures to allow the viewers to explore art through their sense of touch. What if the audience could feel the texture of the materials? What if they could feel the smooth surface of the polished metal, the rough carvings in the stone, or the soft, warm wool knit together within the sculpture? What if a work of art that looked aggressive in nature also felt aggressive through prickly points? What about a sculpture that gives a calming feeling also feels cool and comforting to the touch? Sculpture is a visual art that can be appreciated by the blind through touch.
For my senior art show I created five aluminum cast garden gnomes. I painstakingly polished each one from a rough aluminum to a smooth, close-to-mirror finish. Standing at about 15 inches on average each one was a solid piece of aluminum weighing about 15 lbs each. However, you would never know this just by looking at them. They could have all been hollow aluminum husks constructed out of aluminum foil. Just by looking at them you got a general sense for their shape, however without running your hand across their smooth hats could you ever get an idea for each bump and unique imperfection in their hand-carved bodies.
During the show opening a friend of mine actually asked if they could hold one in order to feel how heavy they were. Most people would scream, “NO!” Each of their fingerprints would be pressed against the polished surface. If they accidentally dropped it the metal could be dented, after all aluminum is still a pretty brittle metal. None of that mattered, standing before me was an individual who wanted a fuller experience of my art. I gladly obliged, lifting one of the gnomes off of the makeshift garden I created and handing it to them. Of course I was there to supervise the interaction.
But for those moments that they held that gnome they could really feel what 15 pounds of solid aluminum felt like. They could feel the cold metal against their hands. They could feel just how smooth it was, a smoothness that I spent months of grinding and polishing trying to accomplish. They were stepping into my shoes, the shoes of the sculptor, and they were getting the full experience that I had felt when creating my art.
I hope to continue to challenge the limitations of visual art in the future. Not only do I want people to explore my artwork from every direction, but I also want them to explore it with all of their senses if possible.
Their are many other reasons I could have discussed (like how sculptures require artists to bend and manipulate unusual materials into something extraordinary) but I hope this gives you a little idea of why I love sculpture so much. If you are interested in seeing more of my old artwork, including all of those garden gnomes, you could check out my online portfolio on Behance.