published Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Trio of sculptors exhibit at Front Gallery

When Jan Chenoweth and Roger Halligan moved to their new studio on Rossville Avenue, they established a space for exhibitions. Through July, visitors to Front Gallery can see sculpture by Isaac Duncan, Andy Light and Shadow May.

“Chattanooga is gaining a reputation as a sculpture center and is home to a strong contingent of sculptors,” said Chenoweth. “We are very pleased to host an exhibition of these three artists who create intelligent, elegant sculpture that push their various mediums and emphasize the fluidity of their forms.”

Duncan, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., says he made art as a child to “express feelings and contain anger.” He studied art at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Kentucky and worked as an assistant to Richard Hunt and John Henry. His sculpture “fits” in the school of nonobjective abstraction.

“Life inspires me, science excites me and music motivates me,” said Duncan.

For him, sculpture can be either a destination or a starting point for dialogue — a point where people of all ages can look and then begin a conversation.

Stainless steel, bronze, brass and aluminum are his metals of choice for a number of reasons. Because they are expensive, he feels his sculptures “start with worth,” which is multiplied through his manipulation and creative process.

These metals are also maintenance-free and inherently beautiful, seductive and strong.

“And I also love the thought that metal was used historically as currency and still is today — it has a historical, man-made presence above all other material,” said Duncan.

The full-time artist works intuitively by beginning with a thought and building on subsequent thoughts with actual materials. Living in the moment is key.

Light, a native of Washington, D.C., also works intuitively.

“While my work is derivative of the figure, that tends to remain merely an allusionary element, a jumping-off point,” he said.

Light attended the University of Kentucky and Florida State University. While he was an undergraduate student in a printmaking class, Light’s instructor noticed him attacking his wood cuts with power tools.

“He promptly sent me to sculpture,” Light explained.

Happy to be working in the mediums of cast iron, bronze, aluminum, fabricated and stainless steel, he conceives an idea for a piece and continues to have a dialogue with it until completion. As various elements and forms emerge, they assume specific identities to Light — culminating in a unified whole.

Inspiration, historically, comes from artists such as Louise Nevelson, David Smith, Anish Kapoor, Isamu Noguchi and Mark di Suvero.

Clay artist May is originally from Alaska but has lived and worked throughout the United States. Although he studied ceramics in college, his knowledge and skills were gained primarily through apprenticeships and an intuition for the medium.

His creativity, as a child, was expressed by building tree forts and stacking stones near the beach. These activities made him feel comfortable and safe to be creative.

“I really believe that you can’t turn creativity on or off — it’s either in you or not,” said May. “I am always thinking about making things or the next idea or form.”

Although not inspired by particular artists or sculptors, he does draw inspiration from monolithic Japanese architecture. Strength and substance that has a humanizing, organic touch attracts him in the same way that two stones that have been nestling side by side and eroding together through the years.

May works with a sculptural clay body that he fires to about 2,250 degrees Fahrenheit. He likes clay because it is a soft and malleable material, it’s recyclable and will never rust.

“It will outlast bronze,” said May. “Its only flaw is that it will break.”

A reception for the exhibition will be held Friday from 5 to 8 p.m.

In addition to work by Duncan, Light and May in the main gallery, the side gallery will showcase sculpture and drawings by Halligan and installations by Chenoweth.

Front Gallery, 1800 Rossville Ave., Suite 1, is open by appointment. Call 243-3778 or 280-0531.

Email Ann Nichols at annsnichols@aol.com.

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