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.
Woodard's sculpture is meant to represent a for-sale sign that points to and mimics the shape of the Doudna.
"He wanted to bring attention to the Doudna in an archeological sense," Boshart said. This technique was popular in the 90s. His sculpture will sit on the Doudna's southeast side.
Davide Prete of Font Bone, on the west side of St. Louis, is originally from Italy and is the fourth member of the program.
"He has a degree in fine arts from Italy, but he went back to school, because he wanted an American degree," Boshart said.
Prete's family members were blacksmiths in the past, so he wanted to work with steel to create his sculpture, which will resemble the greek figure Icarus.
"(Icarus) wanted to fly to the sun to become god-like, so he created a suit out of wings and wax," Boshart said. "But as he approached the sun the wax melted, and he fell back to earth."
Prete started his project last Monday.
"They have each began differently with a different approach," Boshart said. "They all have a serious interest in object making."
While during the school year Boshart teaches sculpture, he said he is not a professor when he is working with the guests.
"They know what they're doing and how they are going to get it done, I am simply the facilitator," Boshart said. "That is really a different role for a university professor. These guys come in and really know what they are doing."
For the artists, the means to create the art is only half the reason the residency is worth the time. The other half is about the display of the finished work, Ross said.
"It's not so much about the time and the materials — the materials aren't that expensive - but to have a space to put it up for a community that is protected is priceless," Ross said. "If you don't have the public space, then you just complete the project, and it sits in your yard, and all for what? The work is about seeing the responses and conversation from a project. Once the work is finished it is for everyone else."
With these pieces being on campus, the overall reaction from the EIU community is positive, Boshart said.
"They have never been vandalized and there have been positive discussions about the pieces," Boshart said. "People look forward to seeing what is new in the fall when they come back."
Information from: Mattoon Journal-Gazette, http://www.jg-tc.com