SPOTLIGHT: Sculptures in spotlight at EIU

By Kayleigh Zyskowski

Mattoon Journal-Gazette

Published: Monday, June 20 2011 6:25 a.m. MDT

In this photo taken June 9, 2011, graduate student Scott Ross of Southern Illinois University works on his sculpture on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. Ross and three other residents were taking part in the Summer Residency Program putting sculptures in the spotlight at EIU. This sculpture and the others will remain on the campus for the next two years.

Jeff Boshart via the Times-Courier, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, Ill. — Despite intense summer heat and a mass of cicadas, an artist worked to finish a sculpture for the Summer Residency Program at Eastern Illinois University.

Scott Ross, a graduate student at Southern Illinois University, was the third graduate art student to stay for the 2011 program. And once again, four new pieces, including Ross', have become part of the campus scenery.

The sculptures will remain on campus for the next two years, said Jeff Boshart, EIU sculpture professor and program director. The effort that was created with the dedication of the new Doudna Fine Arts Center enabled four emerging artists to build a sculpture to be showcased near the facility.

"We want people here who we think are going to be prominent artists in the future," Boshart said.

The artists receive money for the building materials and 24-hour access to the building for two weeks, Boshart said.

"The young artists show up for two weeks and really work their tails off for 12 to 14 hours a day," Boshart said.

For Ross and the three other residents who worked on campus for the summer, the experience of the residency becomes a great addition to their resumes.

"This is usually a project that is bigger and more daring than what they have been able to do in the past," Boshart said. "They really try their darnedest."

Ross, who spent 10 years building houses in Michigan, went back to school to receive his master's degree in sculpture art. He said his artwork deals with domestic environments which relate to his background of building houses.

"You go back to what you know," Ross said.

The idea for the sculpture he built for the program came to him while he was trying to design a different project. He laced his hands in front of him to think, "and I discovered my hands resembled a shelter."

He later discovered that his hands formed a corner of protection, "that someone could back up into that would protect them from the wind;" however, it would be useless against other weather elements, such as rain.

So, Ross found that if he extended the top at an angle he could create an overhang for full protection.

His project is made from wooden boards that he stacked to mimic his laced fingers to "make something organic using a hard line."

Jered Sloan of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale is another artist who has completed a project with the 2011 residency program. He constructed a large-scale whimsy, which is a folk tradition for whittlers.

"A whimsy is a moving object that was carved from one solid part without breaking it into separate pieces," Boshart said.

Many times the whimsies are kept in memory boxes for grandchildren to remember their grandfather as a whittler, Boshart said.

Sloan took a chainsaw and carved a tree that had fallen during the storms this spring into links. The tree Sloan carved was 22 feet tall, and the finished sculpture was 35 feet long.

"When he freed up the links he gained space," Boshart said.

He used the stump to carve a slightly oversized chainsaw and attached it a standing tree in the northwest yard of Buzzard Hall. The tree Sloan attached his sculpture to was scheduled to be cut down because it was sick, Boshart said.

"It was brought back to some degree of health," Boshart said. "The attachment of the tree is about the potential of the chainsaw to take down the tree."

Andrew Woodard of Washington University in St. Louis completed the second piece for the residency June 6.

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