Sometimes art can be summed up as an homage to a great passion like, say, a love of classic cars.
Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Really, wasn’t Deborah Wilson Bellingham’s sculpture on the Shaw Center for the Arts’ fourth floor terrace saying something more?
Sure, it was embellished with hubcaps, and its centerpiece was a grill from an old Chrysler, but surely this piece had more meaning. A social comment, perhaps?
No. “Homage” paid homage to Bellingham’s love of classic cars. That’s what she titled her sculpture, “Homage.”
Bellingham owns a 1951 Jaguar Mark V, and her husband drives a 1967 Camaro.
“We’ve done a lot of work restoring our cars, and I have huge respect for the technology of classic cars,” Bellingham said. “I wanted to do something that would speak to people about how classic cars lifted us in industry.”
So, when Malcolm McClay gave her an assignment to create a sculpture that could be displayed in a public space, Bellingham turned to her passion. “I wanted to create an uplifting sculpture,” she said.
And it only stands to reason that if Bellingham could create a piece that inspired her, then it would inspire others.
Because viewers wouldn’t necessarily have to harbor an appreciation of classic cars to enjoy Bellingham’s piece. Now, it’s a plus if they do, but it’s not a requirement.
See, Bellingham’s sculpture is a celebration, and everyone has something they appreciate in life, be it fine wines or running or their pets or music or even a comic book collection they began building in childhood.
And they can look at Bellingham’s sculpture and celebrate those things that make them who they are.
Or not. Art is subjective, so the end result is left up to the viewer.
As was the case of the other nine sculptures in the Art in the Public Sphere, a biennial project conducted by McClay’s undergraduate sculpture students.
McClay is an assistant professor of sculpture at LSU, as well as an accomplished sculptor. One of the ideas behind this project is to give students an opportunity to exhibit their work in public.
Or, as explained in the project’s title, “the public sphere.” The sphere, in this case, was the Shaw Center, along with the North Boulevard Town Square just around the corner.
Eleven students participated in the project, though work by only 10 was displayed during the Art in the Public Sphere’s exhibit time between April 25 through May 3.
Avia Dimattia’s piece, “The Art of Reading,” was to be installed in front of the River Center Branch Library but was destroyed in a kiln accident.
“It blew up,” Dimattia said. “So, I’ll be displaying my piece next fall.”
In the meantime, she helped her fellow students haul three larger pieces to the Shaw Center’s fourth floor terrace. These pieces were given more staying time.
“They’ll stay here until May 10,” McClay said.
“And if someone sees my piece and wants to buy it, that would be great,” Conrad Freeman said. “If not, I’ll just keep it.”
Freeman’s sculpture, “Tilt,” was the first to be carried to the fourth floor. The job required help from all of his fellow students, along with McClay.
Freeman covered wood with steel plating when creating “Tilt.” The result is a layered piece that starts out narrow at the bottom and gradually widens as it reaches its full 7½feet.
“I started with tubing, then I put the metal plates on the sides and welded the gaps,” Freeman said.
He’s a senior from Mandeville.
“I’ll graduate in a year and a-half,” he said. “I’ve thought about pursing a career as an artist.”
And if he doesn’t?
“I’ll still continue to do art,” he said.
As for the story behind Freeman’s sculpture, the title is simple. The piece appears as if it’s tilting. But the thought behind the piece is where the true story is found.
“Touch, form, line, nature and wonder are what drive my work,” Freeman wrote in his artist’s statement. “I feel that they are all connected, and it is hard to isolate one from the others ... I find that I am drawn to nature and the materials it offers, because I see God in nature. I see what he has already created and how awesome the world is, so I try to use what has already been provided and let it become the centerpiece of my work.”
But he chooses non-organic forms to spark viewers’ curiosity. And “Tilt” certainly did that, as did Bellingham’s “Homage.”
Bellingham not only is a sculpture student but owner of her own custom made jewelry company, MagiAstra L.L.C. She considers each of her jewelry pieces small sculptures, so it seems only natural to progress to something bigger.
“Homage” is her largest sculpture so far. It was joined on the terrace by a third large sculpture, John Gray’s “Used to Be,” made of stainless steel and crystal clear plastic resin designed to accentuate natural sunlight.
Also featured throughout the Shaw Center was Gray’s “Vapor,” Doug Hoy’s “Man-o-War,” James Cane’s “Slow Curtain, The End,” Dylan Purvis’ “The Web,” Andre Charitat’s “Creature #1” and “Creature #2,” Rachel Dudash’s “Let’s Tessellate” and her “Echo Chambers,” which featured four large chimes activated by wind from the Mississippi River.
And on the North Boulevard Town Square, Summer Zeringue installed her interactive textile sculpture, “Spectrum” with the help of boyfriend Matt McCune.
She is a senior from Norco majoring in sculpture and ceramics. She created her sculpture from materials donated by family members.
“Spectrum” was named for the array of colors viewers would experience when walking through the piece. The idea behind “Spectrum” was that viewers would become part of the sculpture, with sunlight projecting colors onto them as they walked or stood inside.
The piece was constructed of PVC pipe and vinyl and stood 7 feet tall.
“With an ever-changing environment, the viewer’s experience will be different throughout the day,” Zeringue wrote in her artist’s statement. “As days pass, this piece will perform a dance of colors on both the pedestrians and the landscape.”
And that dance was a celebration, as was Bellingham’s piece.
And that celebration means something different to each viewer. That’s the beauty of art, especially that in the public sphere.