OSWEGO – Two of six large sculptures to grace a maple-shaded triangle of land near the Marano Center at SUNY Oswego rose recently for a two-year run that art faculty member Benjamin Entner hopes will mark the beginning in a drive for more public art on campus.
Artists Coral Lambert of SUNY Alfred and Eric Stein of Huguenot recently installed “Shape Shifters” and “Cutter,” respectively. The rest of the sculpture garden will take root by early fall, flanking a grove of 10 maple trees along several of the most heavily used walkways on campus.
“Hopefully, this is only the beginning,” said Entner, a sculptor who produces inflatables from drawn-on fabric, as well as working in more traditional materials such as wood and metals. “We are all hoping it proves its worth, people will like it and want it to continue.”
With the cooperation and assistance of key administrators and faculty, Entner and Tyler Art Gallery Director Michael Flanagan put out an “open call” — essentially a request for proposals — in January to sculptors nationwide, and the works of five artists in New York state and one from Iowa were chosen in May for the outdoor sculpture exhibition.
“Shape Shifters” shows Lambert’s interest in how cast metal can be transformed to reference natural objects such as shells and pods. An associate professor specializing in sculpture and dimensional studies at Alfred and director of the National Casting Center’s foundry program, she has exhibited in China, the United Kingdom, New York, New Orleans, Memphis and elsewhere.
Stein, a sculptor based in Orange County, is a frequent exhibitor with recent grants from the city of Port Jervis and the Orange County Art Council. “Cutter” demonstrates his interest in brightly painted geometric and abstract forms. Stein has displayed works in Minneapolis, Chicago, Dayton, Ossining and more.
Other sculptures and their artists will include:
“Bell Tower” by Drake University sculpture studio assistant and 3D design instructor Edward Kelley, whose 10-foot-tall, 3-foot-diameter work will encompass a cowbell that can be rung by a chain.
Entner said Kelley has agreed to travel from Iowa to Oswego to serve as a visiting artist in October, working with, among others, students in Entner’s sculpture class and Richard Bush’s metals class in technology education. Kelley plans to do a molten-iron pour for the public, a dramatic event that Entner called “very primal — there’s fire everywhere.”
“Questioning State,” a 12-foot-high work that evokes classical columns, produced by SUNY Plattsburgh art faculty member Drew Goerlitz, who provided guidance from his sculpture-rich campus to Entner and Flanagan.
“Pileated Woodpecker Totem” by Bob Turan of Earlton, which features a rescued natural log altered by woodpeckers.
“Life” by miChelle Vara of Wilton, founder and director of Ballard Road Art Studio, whose sculpture shows her explorations of form and surface as generic steel beams are bent and rusted to record the artist’s actions on them.
The selection committee, besides Flanagan and Entner, included art department chair Cynthia Clabough, art faculty member Chris McEvoy and Director of Arts Programming John Shaffer. Among the criteria were attention to materials than can weather SUNY Oswego’s winters and to context in architectural, historical, geographical and cultural senses.
Entner said there eventually could be a couple of additional pads for SUNY Oswego student sculptures selected through in-class competition.
The exhibition will run until summer 2016, when the works will be returned to the artists.
For Entner, it’s a beginning. “I see the sculptures as a teaching tool, both in a technical sense and a design sense,” he said. “Public art beautifies a campus.”