Monday, October 7, 2013

Sculpture by the grave: artists get creative in great outdoors

<i>Shade</i> by David McGuinness.

Shade by David McGuinness. Photo: Tamara Dean

Before Erica Izard could discuss her glass sculpture of deflated balloons slumped over tree roots and grass near graves at Rookwood Cemetery, she gave them a thorough clean with Windex.

Wind, rain and bird droppings are some of the hazards facing artists like Izard who are exhibiting in a growing number of outdoor sculpture shows this spring.

The new wave of outdoor shows, exhibitions and prizes was a ''very welcome development'' for artists working in three dimensions given their ''marginal position'' in the past, said Deborah Edwards, senior curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Grief: Erica Izard and <i>Without you, the party is over</i>.

Grief: Erica Izard and Without you, the party is over. Photo: Tamara Dean

Among them is Hidden, the Rookwood Cemetery Sculpture Walk, which has grown from about 10 artists to 40 since it started in 2009. Other sculpture shows, include Mosman's In Situ, which started on Saturday, and Sculpture in the Gaol in South West Rocks which finished last month. Most carry modest prizes of $2500 to $10,000.


At the other end of the scale are the blockbuster shows attracting big name artists, huge works, large prizes and many visitors.

Sculpture in the Vineyards' 100 artists are expected to bring thousands of visitors to the Wollombi Valley in early November. Bondi's Sculpture by the Sea, from October 24, will generate millions in sales and award hundreds of thousands in prizes and scholarships.

The curator of Hidden and In Situ, Cassandra Hard Lawrie, said these shows were giving unheard of opportunities for sculptors to develop professionally while exposing them to new audiences.

''It is giving people who may not usually be stepping into galleries an opportunity to see art,'' Ms Hard Lawrie said.

As much as 20 per cent of Hidden's works were purchased, while big shows would sell more than 60 per cent. These shows were opening a new market of buyers.

But Izard's glass balloons, called Without you the party is over, a reflection on what is left when somebody we love dies, are not for sale. ''It is not about the money,'' she said. ''It is about the opportunity to express yourself.''

She is also exhibiting at In Situ and has been accepted to show at Sculpture in the Vineyards.

For Ms Lawrie, curating an outdoor show also involves maintenance. Walking through Rookwood after strong winds last week, she collected DVD discs that had dropped from a massive installation and pointed out that a curtain of used tea bags - one for each conversation had by the artist over the past 14 years - had been moved several times to avoid the wind. ''It's had an awful time,'' she said.
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