Arts commission brings new public art to Carbondale
June 10, 2014
Buffalo and mustangs have planted themselves on Carbondale's Main Street, and a fish named "Oscar" — fashioned out of rusty steel washers and transmission gears — is perched outside the library. These new additions to the town's street life, unveiled Thursday, are among the 13 installations in the 12th annual Art aRound Town Sculpture exhibition.
The diverse pieces, from both local and national artists, were selected through a blind jury process by the Carbondale Public Arts Commission and town officals. The taxpayer-funded, volunteer-run program drew 60 applicants from 16 states this year, said commission Co-Chair Ashley Todey, from artists hoping to have their work included in the year-long exhibition. The program has helped put Carbondale on the national arts map and earned the town the 2012 Governor's Arts Award.
On Thursday evening, 40-plus locals and visitors joined a walking tour of the town's new sculptures, with artists addressing them through a bullhorn and discussing their work.
Selected artists are awarded a $500 honorarium — a modest sum that Todey noted would cover little more than gas and shipping costs. But the real prize, artists said, is having their work displayed prominently around the town for an entire calendar year. An artists' reception with renowned Carbondale-based sculptor James Surls, they said, was also a draw.
All the pieces are for sale after their yearlong loan to Carbondale, and most from previous years have sold, Todey said.
James Burns' "Ernesto," at the corner of Seventh and Main, is a massive corten steel buffalo filled with cut-up tree trunks.
Burns, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, also has sculptures on the streets of Park City, Utah, and Newburyport, Massachusetts. He drew inspiration for his steel-and-wood buffalo from a trip through Yellowstone National Park, where he had a close encounter with a buffalo that sidled up against his car window.
"He was huge and scary but loveable at the same time," Burns said. "So I took tons of pictures and hung them around my studio."
He used chunks of wood to form the body and then built the steel buffalo around it, trying to mimic the intimidating yet endearing presence of the animal. Over the next year, he said, the metal will evolve into a burgundy color and the wood will bleach in the sun.
"I like seeing it on the street," he said. "It looks so small here, and in my studio it looks huge."
Steel and cement horses, in Siri Hollander's "Mustangs," graze at the other end of town on Main Street.
The artists and the commission jury is mindful that children — and some playful adults — are likely to climb the animals and other street sculptures. So they're made without accessible sharp edges or fragile pieces.
Fredrico Aguirre's "Eve's Grid," on the grounds of the Carbondale Branch Library, is a steel structure of interlocking esoteric symbols. Based in North Las Vegas, Nevada, Aguirre has a 30-year sculpting career, working mostly in copper, bronze and steel. His public art shows have included installations in Boulder City, Nevada, and Salina, Kansas.
"This is here to cause people to explore and wonder," he said, sitting in his pickup truck on Third Street on Thursday afternoon, his sculpture tied down in the truck bed, preparing for installation. "Sometimes the question is, 'What is it?' and sometimes it's just a soothing sort of energy that it can provide."
Michael Golins' "Grow to the Sky," at Main and Fourth streets, is a nearly 10-foot-tall stainless steel and iron creation that mimics plant life.
Golins, of Missoula, Montana, like most of the selected artists, saw the commission's call for submissions online. He then made a 1-foot-tall model of the sculpture, photographed it and sent it in.
"Then it was a great adventure trying to figure out how to make the metal look like the model had," he said.
Taking it to a bigger scale, Golins explained, he used steel tubing and filled it with sand to create the final product.
Pavia Justinian, of Fruita, has created "God of the Machines," a colossal head fashioned out of steel that's reminiscent of Easter Island's statues, though it's made from modern machinery. Sitting at eye level near the Rio Grande Trail, it's Justinian's first large-scale metal sculpture.
"He's like an idol, like a big stone idol," she said. "But instead of stone, he's metal and mechanical."
Local artists in the exhibition include Chris Erickson, of Glenwood Springs, who fashioned a massive pair of green-and-orange headphones out of steel. Titled "Phones," it is positioned on Promenade near Thunder River Theatre. Mike Rand, of Carbondale, made "Thoughts in the Wind at Sunset" from wood and melted Plexiglass — it's designed to catch the sunset light on Main Street. Also from Carbondale, Mark Cesark used fabricated steel and copper to make "Garden," a globe with gardening tools angled above it, mounted at Fourth and Main.