Enhancing the landscape: Sculpture show opens Friday

May. 01, 2014 @ 05:50 PM

Facing a stiff wind, clouds and the threat of rain, a group of artists from Liberty Arts undid the cords that secured David Boyajian’s steel sculpture “Dancing Milkweed V” to the bed of his pickup truck. With Boyajian directing from the truck bed, the artists slowly, gingerly eased the structure onto one of three raised brick platforms in CCB Plaza.

“You have to take your time with this. You can’t rush,” said Jackie MacLeod of Liberty Arts. With the sculpture in place, Michael Waller, another Liberty Arts sculptor, began measuring the area to bolt the sculpture into the brick and concrete. The process was a bit trial and error; the artists had to make a run to Public Hardware to get longer bolts. The rain spilled on the process for a few minutes, but the artists kept working, and Boyajian’s sculpture now joins Major the Bull in CCB Plaza.
Wednesday’s installation has been repeated, with variations, a dozen times this week. Boyajian’s sculpture is one of 12 large pieces that were selected for the first Bull City Sculpture Show, which opens Friday. (See sidebar for schedule of events.)
This week’s installations are the culmination of years of work for MacLeod, Waller and other Liberty Arts members. Liberty announced the show last June, but Waller said the plans go back to the days when the nonprofit organization was in Liberty Warehouse. Liberty Arts was forced to move its studios from there in May 2011 after part of the roof collapsed. Originally Liberty planned eight sculptures, but once other artists got on board and American Tobacco agreed to be a site for sculptures, they decided to ramp up the show and add more sculptures, Waller said.
For MacLeod, it represents a journey from “sitting soaking wet” after the roof collapse to “becoming more of a unit.” The time also was right for this kind of show in Durham. “You can tell it by the energy, the atmosphere,” MacLeod said. At nights, “the restaurants are packed, the bars are busy.” 
All 12 sculptures are within walking distance of Durham Central Park. The sculptures will be on view for six months. One sculpture will be purchased for Durham and become permanent. A committee will recommend a sculpture to purchase to the city. Liberty Arts has set aside $15,000 for purchase of a sculpture in the budget for the show. A people’s choice sculpture will remain on view for a full year. The intention is to repeat the sculpture show annually, purchasing one sculpture from each show for Durham.
Architect Phil Freelon was the juror for this show, and looked through about 30 submissions, he said. Liberty Arts chose the sites, and Freelon chose sculptures in relationship to those sites.  “Being from Durham, I had a keen memory of all the sites,” he said. He took photos of all the sites, then considered each piece in context. “The scale and size of the pieces … other landscape and architectural elements, pedestrian traffic, color, all of these came into play,” Freelon said.
Gary Gresko’s “Transponder” (in Durham Central Park) and Mike Roig’s “Twist of Fate” (at the new County Courthouse Plaza) were installed earlier in the week. The remaining sculptures were scheduled for installation Thursday. “Transponder” is a yellow, cylindrical, steel piece that invites the viewer to look up at the sky. Roig’s piece is a steel structure that moves with the wind.
Florida artist Ira Hill’s “Amuk” (in Durham Central Park) is a painted concrete bench sculpture that Hill calls “Three-Dimensional Graffiti.” Hill invites viewers to paint or alter the image so that “the community takes ownership of it.”
Greensboro artist Jim Gallucci’s “Flutter Gate II,” a steel arch structure, is located near the Durham Performing Arts Center. In his artist’s statement Gallucci said he uses the arch form because it promotes interaction with the art and creates a sense of “‘entry’ for the public to embrace art.” Nearby in American Tobacco is Maine sculptor Anne Alexander’s “Accretion.” This structure is made of carved cedar (downed during a storm in Maine) with ceramic pots. “The driving theme of my work is humankind’s spiritual and physical connection to the natural world,” she writes in her artist’s statement.  “By creating forms that seem to be enlarged, the viewer becomes aware of his/her size in relation to nature,” she writes.
Why are large, public sculptures important? Gallucci stresses the importance of art to public spaces, which he compares it to “the front porch of a city or town … where people met halfway. When visitors see public art, it creates interest in your city. People say, This is creative. What else is going on here that is creative? … That’s what keeps towns alive.”
For Freelon, the sculptures add to the city’s vibrancy, which depends on businesses, residences and foot traffic. “These pieces enhance that ground-level experience as people move around the city.”