Tag Archives: Wood Sculpture

Inside the Artist’s Studio with June Szabo

Most of my work begins with the natural world, often in a particular landscape. Sometimes a place finds me and sometimes I look for a location that illustrates the idea I am working on. I spend many hours exploring and researching the history and geology that formed the place I have chosen. I find myself making comparisons and creating metaphors between the events that shaped the land and the actions that shape our lives.

Artist June Szabo

Artist June Szabo

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Inspiration

To understand what each place has to teach me, I write about the connections I make in poetry and prose. The following contemplation on the purpose of scars was a comparison between glacial formations (scars on the land) and the scars that we carry.

Relics of Our Story – Mendon
June B W Szabo

Considering the damage we do to ourselves and others;
I looked to the landscape to ponder the purpose of scars.
Above and below the surface is a record of events that have left a lasting impression:
Kettles, kames and eskers, are divots, knobs and welts,
caverns, caves and sinkholes are mania and despair.
Forgotten and remembered these marks and inklings are the relics of our story,
scars and impressions resolved and unresolved.
When we stop scratching, scraping and digging like a glacier,
our wounds begin to heal.

"Relics of our Story – Mendon"

“Relics of our Story – Mendon”

The process I use to create my sculpture is also a metaphor for a connection between nature and human behavior. The layers of wood, which give my forms depth and dimension, reflect growth in nature and the layering of the earth. Wood sculptures are formed by cutting and stacking lumber, which is joined with glue, clamps and wooden dowels. Each layer in a landscape sculpture represents an elevation on a topographical map.

Work in progress

Work in progress

Work in progress

Work in progress

In addition to wood sculptures, such as the one seen in Land & Sea, I also weave. Weaving creates thousands of connections and intersections. I warp my loom with copper wire and weave panels that are folded, pleated and bent into three dimensional forms. These bonds are sometimes unseen, but necessary for the final woven product to exist. They are a metaphor for the connections that hold our earth together.

Weaving

Weaving

Weaving

Weaving

For me each process has come to represent and illustrate the interrelated, interdependence of all things.

Comparison is the estimation of similarities and differences. Metaphor suggests a likeness as we speak about one thing as if it were another. My sculptures are reflections on questions that occur to me as I consider our place in the world. They take the shape of landscapes and natural forms. They may include an area that covers inches or hundreds of miles. The sculptures are not exact replicas of a particular place or thing, but partial abstractions representing ideas that surface as I consider each place and how it was created. They are comparisons between the forces and forms found in nature to human inclination and behavior.


June Szabo is one of 28 artists featured in “Land & Sea”, a national juried exhibition of landscapes and seascapes juried by Deirdre Aureden, director of programs and special projects at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, NY. The exhibition runs through June 29, 2018.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Chris Oliver

I grew up in southern New Hampshire, which is an amazing mix of idyllic small towns, strip malls, and beautiful pine forests infiltrated by power lines and dirt bike trails.  I have to stop writing about New Hampshire or I’ll never get to anything else.

After high school I moved a couple of hours west and attended Marlboro College in Vermont, which is a tiny school (250 students) on a hill, basically in the middle of the woods.  I graduated from there with a BA in Sculpture.  The bulk of that work was in clay, which I loved at the time for its immediacy.  By this I mean you start with something that is almost formless, or I guess just very malleable, you learn about its material qualities and from there can push it in so many directions with almost nothing beyond your hands.  In hindsight, the work I made looked very old fashioned.  At the time I loved looking at people like Noguchi or Barbara Hepworth.

Chris Oliver with his piece "Double Beaumont" in our Structurally Speaking exhibition. Best in Show!

Chris Oliver with his piece “Double Beaumont” in our Structurally Speaking exhibition. Best in Show!

After finishing that degree I stuck around Marlboro for a few years working for various local potters and doing some carpentry.  During that time I lived in a cabin in the woods, which was incredible.  You had such a direct experience with everything, and it was always changing how you did things based on the specific time of year.  That cabin was also my first remodeling project, which has become pretty central to my life and art since.

I rented space in an unused dairy barn for $15 a month and built a tiny studio out of metal roofing I had found at the dump.  My friends called it a “meat locker” because it was a freezing cold, tiny galvanized enclosure that I’d work in through the winter, usually at night.  We didn’t have a metal shop at Marlboro and this was something that I had always been interested in, so that’s what this space was dedicated to.  I had a small welder and a few basic tools and made a bunch of work that again looked antiquated. By this time I had moved up a decade or two and was looking a lot at Chillida, who often used steel like clay in some really beautiful ways, as well as looking at Anthony Caro.

I used these pieces to apply to graduate school.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get in based on the work I submitted (although I probably would have if it had been the 1960’s because I had a good design sense, crafted things well, and was pretty inventive), but probably based on the few photos of the “meat locker” I’d left the chair of the Sculpture department (Ed Mayer) at SUNY Albany.  My guess is that he saw those and thought “this guy seems really determined and he’ll probably do something good here if we can get him to not be so stubborn.”

I spent three years at SUNY Albany in the MFA program, which was amazing.  Now I was looking at was from the 60s and 70’s (of course!).  Michael Heizer drawing in the desert with his dirt bike, Smithson and all of this entropic Earth Art, and also got really into Gordon Matta-Clark and how he would use houses as a material.

While I was in Albany my thinking about art began to shift from it being something fairly separate from “regular life” to being just another part of it.  As this pertained to sculpture this meant a shift from making autonomous objects to things that directly interacted with the world.  Of course, artists had been doing this for sixty or eighty years, but I really had to work through some pretty strict formalism and still think that it’s so important.

I began working with things that were right around me that I had always been interested in but hadn’t used as art material before.  I made this very small building that filled itself with water when it rained because of the shape of its roof.  It’s size was similar to a springhouse I had collected water from daily when I’d lived in that cabin in Vermont, but its function was purely to create a space for aesthetic experience: it had a hole that you could stick your head in and another that you could stick your hand in to touch the water.

3'x3'x4', wood, cement, steel

The Salt House, wood, cement, steel, 3′x3′x4′, 2005

Inside the Salt House

 

Another was this funny red and white viewing apparatus on skis that you could drag around to isolate parts of the ground and look at.  It looked like a Radio Flyer straight from the 1950’s, and was meant to be used by some family interested in aesthetic experience, but saying that this experience is no different than some other activity like sledding or riding around in a wagon.

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Nine years ago I moved to Ithaca where I’ve worked as a carpenter off and on, but primarily help run a large wood/metal/digital shop here at Cornell where art and architecture students build just about anything you could possibly think of, and many things you or I would never think of based on the sheer quantity of incredibly creative people that come through the program.  During this time I have adopted “the digital” in the form of 3-d modeling in the computer, 3-d printing, CNC milling and laser cutting.  Sometimes I use this technology for purely practical purposes. This summer I’ll be milling foam molds for a series of large model swimming pools that I’ll be making with fiberglass and also plaster molds for a 48 pack of full-scale elongated ashtrays that I’ll be slip casting in ceramic.

Other times this technology is conceptually part of the piece.  Last year I printed a stack of picnic tables as the state parks stack them for winter.  I loved the idea of taking this most basic American form, the picnic table, and putting it through this cutting edge process.

The Picnic Tables

 

photo 1Double Beaumont (the piece in Structurally Speaking at Main Street Arts) was conceived in this fashion. I found the first ranch floor plan that came up in a Google search, used this to generate a Rhino model (3-d digital drawing) and starting messing with it in the computer.  I then used this drawing to go full circle and build the piece with pine and nails.

Double Beaumont, V-Ray rendered Rhino model, dimensions variable, 2013

Double Beaumont, V-Ray rendered Rhino model, dimensions variable, 2013

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Double Beaumont, Pine, Nails, 5'x'5x8', 2015

Double Beaumont, Pine, Nails, 5′x’5×8′, 2015 

You can stop by the gallery to see Chris Oliver’s sculpture, “Double Beaumont” in our current exhibition Structurally Speaking. Chris’ piece won Best in Show!

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Rochester painter and sculptor Zach Dietl.