By Jeremy Kester
This October, The Northwest Stone Sculptors Association partnered with the Pacific Northwest Sculptors for the first time in a group show with thirty-one participating artists. The Making Space special four-day exhibit was held in the Art Reach Gallery at the First Congregational Church, across the park from the Portland Art Museum. Timed in conjunction with the International Sculpture Conference, the show allowed for many opportunities to share art, ideas, and inspiration with both new and familiar members of the sculpture community from around the world.
The First Congregational Church is one of the few examples of Venetian Gothic architecture in the United States and home to the oldest continuous art gallery in Portland. It has a rich tradition of supporting the arts, dating back to the first exhibition in 1875, which featured oil paintings and marble sculptures. The central location is within walking distance of the Portland Art Museum, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland State University, and many of the other galleries and studios that participated in the International Sculpture Conference (ISC).
The joining of the NWSSA and PNWS made for an eclectic mix of styles and media. The show was cohesively curated with something for everyone. Bronze was well-represented. Martin Eichinger’s Inspire dances with graceful fluidity, while Progression, by Jason Johnston, has a cerebral narrative that continues to pull you in and provoke thoughts of endless, cooperative struggle. Fresh off the banker, Sinuosity, by Monika Hawkinson, in honeycomb calcite, glowed in the middle of the room, attracting touches of admiration. Raphael Sebba has convinced marble to swirl and fold with clean elegance in Rebirth. Tony Furtado’s Disappearing makes its point about extinction with masterful figurative abstraction in ceramic and metal. The Sunday reception was well-attended, and the central location allowed for the stream of visitors attending the ISC to flow throughout the event.
For five days, members from all corners of the sculpture community descended on Portland for studio tours, keynotes, panel discussions, gallery shows, and social networking events. There were BFA and MFA students, world-renowned sculptors, and young, emerging talents. There were gallery directors, museum curators, and collectors. By exploring the theme of “the multifaceted maker,” we received education in topics ranging from modern production techniques like VR sculpting and 3d printing to intercultural collaboration and the impact of public art in livable cities.
I had the opportunity to volunteer for the conference, and the staff was a pleasure to work with. The studio tours were fascinating. We visited the expanse of glass production that is Savoy Studios. Form 3D showed us the cutting edge of sculpture production, fusing techniques from traditional modeling and mold making to digital scanning, modeling, and production. The keynote presentations were eye-opening and inspirational.
It has been seven years since I was first made aware of the NWSSA during a visit to the Portland Art Museum, which rekindled my interest in sculpture. To now be displaying works of my own and working within the sculpture community at large feels like the end of a chapter for me. The week’s events left me feeling privileged to live in a city with such vibrant arts and with an itchy curiosity to explore it. On to the next chapter.
We thank Carl Nelson, Chas Martin, Dr. Nigel Sheldon, and the many other participants and volunteers for a finely-curated show.