WHAT: Signs of Life – bamboo sculpture by Claire Lewis Evans
WHEN: On weekends through November 11. On the 11th, there will be a bamboo celebration from 2-4 p.m. in the park, around the sculptures.
WHERE: In Black Belt Bamboost’s bamboo park, Northport (directions)
MEDIA: Interview on WVUA with Danny Salter and PHOTOS on this Flickr set!
A group of bamboo sculptures are now being constructed in the new bamboo park in development adjacent to Kentuck Park in Northport. Signs of Life is the work of local artist Claire Lewis Evans as part of her graduate research in The University of Alabama’s department of art and art history. The installation is a collaboration with Black Belt Bamboost, a community-based project designed to raise awareness about bamboo’s potential benefits for Alabama.
Black Belt Bamboost’s current initiative is the construction of a bamboo park on a small section of a 200-acre site given to its parent organization, the Friends of Historic Northport, for the establishment of the Van de Graaff Arboretum and Historic Bridge Park. The bamboo park will showcase the many varieties of bamboo, a fast-growing and prolific plant with numerous industrial and agricultural uses. In addition to its educational mission, the park is also envisioned as a site for community events, public art, and cultural performances. It was in this context that Black Belt Bamboost’s Jamie Cicatiello contacted Lewis Evans to discuss sculpture for the park.
“It was exactly the sort of situation I was looking for as an artist working in West Alabama,” Lewis Evans says. “There is much to be said for showing in galleries, but I want to reach people who don’t usually seek out art. There’s so much smart, interesting art being created in this city, but you have to know where to look to find it. So part of this is just me saying, hey, look, everybody: we have good things going on!”
Because the park is still under development, Lewis Evans had near carte blanche in designing a temporary sculpture installation to inaugurate the public art component of the park plan. “I have placed pieces large and small at the UA Arboretum, but this is like having an entire stage on which to create a vision.”
Lewis Evans’ initial idea was to install a casting, but Black Belt Bamboost’s Marcy Koontz encouraged her to try working with bamboo. Lewis Bamboo Nursery (another Black Belt Bamboost partner) supplied samples and Lewis Evans was soon hooked.
“Bamboo turned out to be the perfect medium to achieve the types of marks that have been developing in my work over the past year. I’ve been drawing and dancing and sculpting with line, exploring gesture and the way forms move, interact with gravity, and occupy space.
“I’m interested in all this as forms of intelligent, nonverbal expression. There’s something very raw and basic about an emphatic gesture—it’s just there, the essential thing in itself, present without a lot of mental gymnastics making it work.
“I’m sure that won’t make sense to a lot of people, but then, life often doesn’t make sense either. Yet here we all are, most of us trying to make, find, or otherwise cultivate meaning in our lives. That process is where the meaning happens. That’s what making sculpture is about to me. It’s a way of creating and understanding the world.“
Lewis Evans will be creating Signs of Life in Black Belt Bamboost’s bamboo park on weekends through November 11, the date set to celebrate its completion. As her first outdoor work made of bamboo, she’s not sure how long it will remain on site.
“That’s part of the research. It’s all a big experiment. The one thing I can say for sure is that it’s temporary. Get it while the getting is good, because it won’t be around forever. Among other things, Black Belt Bamboost has big plans for the site. I’m just glad my part of it has worked out so well thus far.”
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