Megane MvsCarter is a mom who works over 40 hours a week at a construction company, but instead of sleeping, she likes to put her BFA in sculpture to work welding together unique pieces of art. Her recent work explores themes such as infusing femininity into metalwork or using oxidation to represent how humans change. His piece, “Feel Free to Shake My Hand” has both: an oxidized fan-shaped head, the suggestion of a female torso, and a long arm with spindly knuckles resting on the base. You thank God for the title when you see it, because, especially after two years of trying not to touch things, the urge to shake hands with the statue is almost irresistible.
McCarter was exhibiting his pieces at the Sculpture Tucson Festival Show and Sale earlier this month, along with 44 other artists.
It occurs to me as I walk through Brandi Fenton Park that one thing that makes the art of sculpture fascinating is its abundance of medium options. You can build a sculpture out of metal, wood or stone, yes. But you can also make sculptures out of musical instruments (Carlton Bradford), or shells and shotgun shells (Ralph Prata), or little empty Fireball whiskey bottles, apparently (Jimmy Descant). The other thing that stands out is how the carvings stand out. They’re not afraid to take up space, and they don’t need function or small size or a spot on the wall above the mantel to justify their existence.
“I’ve never, ever done anything utilitarian,” says Timothy J. Arand-McIlrath, who sells pieces that combine stained-glass dies with crochet and weaving. You could say they’re influenced by the basket weaving background he tells me about, but they make me think of tidal pools or neurons activating synapses.
“Why are you so against making anything utilitarian?” I ask. It is not, in fact.
“I just don’t have an interest,” he says. “I am an artist. I make unique works of art.
Arand-McIlrath, who wears multicolored glasses to match his rainbow-striped shirt, has a master’s degree in fiber arts from the 1960s and has spent more than 20 years as an art teacher at Iowa State University. That’s another beautiful thing about art. You can spend years and years studying it, learning the best way to do it. Or you can just decide to start doing it and learn yourself along the way. Maybe that’s true of all of creation – I think of how some parents read books and take parenting classes and have degrees in child development, while others just go for it .
When I approach Steve Gevurtz, he gives me a wealth of information about how, after 30 years as a business executive, he suddenly decided to become an artist, taking classes, attending workshops and visiting art academies in Europe. He’s very kinesthetic, he says. He then fell in love with sculpture. He works with models on his superb bronze figures, of women dancing or jumping, arms outstretched. I watch a bit as he works on clay for his new piece, “Lady Corona” – his portrayal of COVID-19 as a woman, running through the countryside in utter joy and terrifying efficiency.
Bronze sculpture is an exercise in patience. When Gevurtz is finished with the piece of clay, he will cut out the limbs, then make separate molds for each one, as well as the torso. They will each be filled with molten bronze and then all welded together for the finished product. It seems appropriate when he tells me that one of his most recent plays was based on something he read somewhere (probably Chris Guillebeau): “Life is not a quest for happiness. This is the happiness of the pursuit.
In contrast, Kevin Caron jokes that he chose 3D printing as his medium because he likes the machine to do all the hard work, leaving him to focus on the imagination. Entirely self-taught, Caron became an artist in 2006 after notably military concerts and worked in an import car garage. He creates colorful and whimsical shapes from his dreams. They look like plants, sea creatures, optical illusions, pillars of palaces built on top of clouds.
“For me, it’s a journey through Neverland,” he says. “My work is just a fantasy.”
You can follow some of these artists on Instagram! @megansmetal, @jimmydescant, @artguyiowa1 (It’s Arand-McIlrath) @stevegevurtzsculpture and @kevincaronart. And you can follow me on Twitter at @emfurd for more dispatches from Sculpture Fest and beyond.