In the Studio

The structure behind Structure

Posted on August 16, 2011

Structure, curated by CE Visual Arts Instructor Miranda Putman, utilizes the larger singular theme of “structure” to explore and comment upon the multiple ways edifices are depicted using different artistic mediums and expressions. Structures represented include cells, bodily structures, architectural buildings, music building blocks, and the physical structures of the art pieces themselves.

In mid-July, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the artists featured in the exhibit and discuss their works in progress. What follows is a narrative of my observations and interviews.

Long-time CE artist Tony Gomez’s signature work is created through repetitive markings that he layers with paint and ink. Tony's work in Structure shifted from his usual 2D works on paper to sculpture. Tony took the challenge head on, creating about 25 3D versions of his markings using wire, clay, and paint that form an installation. I found these works to be beautifully intricate and delicate, yet simultaneously sturdy and tangible. Tony also made a large DNA helix form out of wire, clay, paint, plastic tube pieces, and plaster. There is no separation betwen interior and exterior space in this nest-like scultpure.

Thomas Pringle
showed me his large-scale full body sculpture, Venus. This impressive piece, standing 42” tall, is composed of air dry clay (which Thomas casually commented smelled so strongly of hot dogs throughout the process that he was always craving one), cardboard and wire. My favorite part of the sculpture is the hair. Wire on the back of the body appears to serve both as the vertebrae and the hair - again, an artist merging interior and exterior structure.

When asked what his favorite part of the sculpture was, Thomas answered that he liked “the head because you can’t tell if it's a woman or a man.” His response inspired an interesting conversation about how artists engage in representing masculine and feminine qualities and how similar or distinct those processes actually are, both physically and conceptually. Thomas said his sculpture appears to have a “masculine headache.” He elaborated by saying that Venus appeared to be in great pain.

The texture of the sculpture is cracked and purposely left imperfect. Thomas shared that at first the texture posed a problem for him since it kept cracking, but he later decided that he liked it. Curator Miranda Putman commented, “There is something really wonderful about this sculpture, since it’s not about perfection.” 

Another artist included in Structure is Kevin Roach. His Temple sculpture was inspired by buildings common to Thailand and India. Constructed out of brightly-painted paper mache, Temple forms a miniature oasis that references structures of architecture, culture, and religions.

Natalie Sping, a newer artist at CE, composed several horse and bison sculptures out of wire. These sculptures are beautiful, precious, abstract, yet also real, as they have an impressive quality of movement and personality to them, despite being composed solely of wire. Natalie’s sculptures create eerie shadows which when combined with the actual sculpture, portray both the internal structures of these figures, reminiscent of sinews and tissues, as well as the external animal shape and form.

Submitted by Alex Fine, Oberlin College intern.

Image Captions: Untitled by Tony Gomez; Thomas Pringle with his sculpture Venus; Venus (detail) by Thomas Pringle; Temple by Kevin Roach; Horse by Natalie Spring.

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