School of Art Hosts 11th Texas Sculpture Symposium
In early November slightly over fifty sculptors from throughout Texas, professional artists, academic instructors and students, converged on the Texas Tech Center at Junction to participate in the 11th Texas Sculpture Symposium 2008. Since 2004, Sara Waters, professor of sculpture and head of the sculpture area at the TTU School of Art, has biennially chaired this gathering of sculptors (which on alternating years is hosted by the Sculpture Network of Texas at other locations around the state.)
Begun back in the late 1970s the Texas Sculpture Symposium was an annual event until the late 1980s when it died. Waters had experienced those early convocations and seeing the value in the yearly exchange of ideas had long wanted to recreate the Symposium. In 2004, working with colleague William Cannings, associate professor of sculpture, and Joe Arredondo, Director of Exhibits & Speaker Programs at School of Art, she was able to realize this vision. As a result the Sculpture Network of Texas was born and the Symposium has become an annual event since then.
This year the Symposium’s theme was Engaging Sculpture: Toward Social, Environmental and Political Involvement and featured speakers whose careers in art have been devoted to engaged sculpture. JAMES DRAKE was the opening speaker on Friday evening, November 7th. Drake is an internationally acclaimed artist, now living in Santa Fe, whose work has been honored with inclusion in both the Venice Biennale and the Whitney Biennial. Throughout his career, James Drake has explored political, social, and universal themes through the media of sculpture, video, installation, photography, and drawing.
Saturday’s speakers included Jann Rosen-Queralt and Randy Jewart. Jann Rosen-Queralt is an artist and educator at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her work enriches spaces for human interaction and the public exchange of ideas, while at the same time including spaces for contemplation and relaxation. She combines environmental sustainability, historic/cultural sensitivity, and community connections. Randy Jewart has been working exclusively as a professional sculptor for ten years. He has exhibited work at galleries and small museums nationwide. Founder of Austin Green Art in 2004, he has long advocated that “we have reached a time in global development that requires artist to devote their creative abilities to help further the social and ecological concerns of our times….”
Shan Wells and Benjamin Appl led hands-on workshops during the Satruday afternoon sessions. Shan Wells of Durango, Colorado grew up in southwestern Colorado, immersed in nature and the immediate landscape -- which has become his artistic medium -- all his life. He is recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant (1999) and two successive Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowships. Wells worked with symposium participants to develop and ephemeral installation at the edge of the river on the Junction campus. Ben Appl, who is a ceramic sculptor and associate professor at Austin Community College gave a raku workshop, providing insights into portability and immediacy by altering some of the starting materials.
Sunday morning’s closing speaker was Riley Robinson, Studio Director at Artpace in San Antonio. At Artpace their stated mission is their belief that art can reflect and affect contemporary society, as such, Robinson’s presentation focused on recent art residencies of (San Antonio) local, national and internationally recognized artists whose work reflected social or political concerns. The Symposium also featured an exhibition of sculptures that each of the attendees had been encouraged to bring “under their arms” for the weekend. The exhibition was a strong showing of the diversity of work being generated around the State.
The Business Session that followed the Robinson talk confirmed that next fall’s Symposium will be hosted the San Angelo Museum of Fine Art in collaboration with The Chicken Farm in San Angelo.
Support for keynote speakers and TTU student participation at the 11th Texas Sculpture Symposium came from Cultural Activities Fees administered through the College of Visual & Performing Arts.