Last week we featured the first of two new sculpture projects created for the Horst M. Rechelbacher Pollinator Project, a new partnership between the Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation, The University of Minnesota Bee Lab, and Franconia Sculpture Park. The partnership is an interdisciplinary effort to support pollinator health at the Horst M. Rechelbacher Organic Farm in Osceola, Wisconsin. Today we turn the spotlight on Beyond Violet, a collaboration between artists Bridget Beck, OR, and Joy Feuer, CA.
Bridget Beck creates large-scale sculpture, drawings, and community collaborations. She is the artist behind the iconic Playstation and Poetry Studio here at Franconia Sculpture Park. Bridget spent time at Franconia as an artist intern in 2001 and 2004 and returned as an artist-in-residence and blog contributor from 2010 to 2012.
Joy Feuer is an artist, public art consultant, curator and founding director of ART from the Ashes/AFTA Productions (AFTA), a Southern, CA based arts non-profit inspired by the transformative properties of art and the natural environment. Alternating between roles as instigator, collaborator and creator she focuses her energy on public art installations, community arts programming and aligns with ink, clay, concrete and found objects as her mediums for artistic exploration.
Describe your creative process and influences:
Bridget: I create large-scale sculpture, drawings, and community collaborations. I am in direct contact with these materials whether it is metal or ink on paper. The personal aspect of the work is of the utmost importance. I am interested in the inherent beauty of a junky world. I embrace used and labored bits and pieces that have a value that is overlooked.
I am following in the tradition of sculptors that don’t cast metal but assemble it piece by piece. The sculptors who were the first to use metal fabrication in their work have no doubt heavily influenced my sculptures: Julio González, David Smith, Picasso, Mark di Suvero and Anthony Caro… However, I do it way differently then those guys. But, my work is also very influenced by poets, writers, mentors, all the artists that I have worked beside, found materials near-by, people I have met and places I have lived. Franconia Sculpture Park has had a large influence on me. The impact of materials I used early on at Franconia and the outdoor large-scale working environment there is something I will never shake. It can be seen in all my sculptural work past and present.
Joy: The natural environment is the catalyst that prompts me to create art. Texture, colour, shape, shadow, light, sound — all collide in a constant state of transformation. My perspective has been under its influence for as long as I recall.
I’m drawn to experimentation and working in tactile mediums prone to adaptation and steeped in process. Ink, clay, concrete, organic materials and found objects provide an infinite matrix for both 2D and 3D works.
I view life in a continuum of Venns and conversely am drawn to what manifests at the intersection of material and process. Combining, integrating and adapting is my place of interest.
Some of the artist’s whose work I am drawn to include… Grace Albee, Margaret Mee, Beatrice Wood, Olafur Eiasson, Lee Bonotecou, Ruth Asawa, Agnes Denes, Noah Purifoy, Lauren Bon/Metabolic Studios and Red Earth Environmental Art Group. Music also plays a significant role in my atmosphere. I have playlists to match just about every mood/medium and new mixes always in formation.
Tell us about your project for the H.M. Rechelbacher Foundation, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Bee Squad and Franconia Sculpture Park:
Joy: This project combines several touchstones for me: environmental, site-specific, collaborative, symbolic. The location for the sculpture is on a pollinator research habitat. Together with Bridget, we conceptualized a sculpture we coined “Beyond Violet” that evokes the art of pollination. It is an abstract depiction of anatomy & botany (pollinator/pollinating plant) integrated with a narrative of steel, aluminum and concrete — with a dose of transfigured found objects to complete the tale. And its probably one of the only sculptures on the planet equipped with 3 compound eyes (artistically interpreted, of course).
Bridget: Beyond Violet creates a space for the viewer to discover and learn a bit more about the fruit and honey that we consume while standing under its magical structural canopy. I think is a great addition to the already fantastic Horst M. Rechelbacher Farm in Osceola, WI.
What significance have bees and other pollinators had in your life, and what discoveries were gained during the research of your project?
Bridget: I was a bee novice before entering into this sculpture. I had watched all the bee documentaries (nature documentaries are my favorite) and knew that they had been dying off in record numbers because of toxins, pesticides and various other commercial bee-keeping practices. But, through the extensive research I did on bees and pollination for this project, I have come away with a deepened respect for the work the bees do as a super community and found so much beauty in the center of a flower.
Joy: I am a lifelong outsider drawn to all things flying, crawling, foraging, sprouting, flowering (and withering). In addition to being an avid gardener, I am also a beekeeper. Ergo, why this project was a bell-ringer for me. While I entered the project with a pretty solid comprehension about pollination, working on “Beyond Violet” took it up several notches. AND now more then ever, I just can’t shut up about it! I feel fortunate to be able to combine my core passions for this project. Hopefully it will inspire others to raise their pro pollinator freak flag. I really feel that if most people knew what happens behind the scenes — it would not only blow their mind but provide a sense of awareness and gratitude as pollinators have a significant impact on our daily lives.
How does Beyond Violet relate to or differ from your other work?
Bridget: The lines of both my sculptures and drawing have always been very organic. This collaboration has taken my metal work to another level of organic. I’m not sure I will continue on this path but it has been interesting. Joy and I also tried several new materials: acrylic, cast cement, aluminum and stainless steel.
Your blog for Beyond Violet has been a fantastic way to peer into the poetics of pollination and your collaborative process leading up to your arrival. In what ways have you worked together in the past, and what prompted the start of your blog?
Bridget: I started writing a blog when I was the resident artist at Franconia Sculpture Park. I think that platform is a great way to educate, inspire, and give a real life view into the making of a sculpture. Having a blog is also a great way for people to understand a complex sculpture… one that can’t be summed up in a paragraph. This is an ambitious sculpture with a huge conceptual bent. Plus, we are abstracting elements to allow people to wonder and discover. The blog helps us explain.
Joy: Bridget was insistent on the blog. She made us do it. Ha! But I also agreed it was a good idea…even though to me blogging does not come naturally. I’m really trying! We both value the importance of inviting people into the creative process and do this by practice independently. It’s important to capture imagery of how art takes shape. Most folks find it interesting and as artists we feel its also important to reveal what goes into creating work. You know — that art does not just happen. That it is really hard work requiring initiative, time, energy, resource, patience and commitment.
For this project in particular we felt the blog was an ideal way to sprinkle in facts about pollination — art is a most suitable messenger for subjects of importance. By the way I like YOUR use of “poetics of pollination” in this question. YOU should write a guest post with that title on our blog! Come on, do it.
This project was the first time we have worked in tandem as artists. She and I initially met several years ago when I was curating and producing a public art program and contracted Bridget to make a sculpture.
What was your biggest challenge in creating this sculpture?
Joy: Collaborations in general are challenging. At the onset of working together we already knew we had very different styles —this actually made the notion of collaborating of interest to us. So, we were game and committed to an open mind. During our collaborative journey we also discovered that the “way” we work is also much different…how we each navigate through our process to complete work.
Expedited timeframe (somewhat artist induced) was definitely the major challenge. Given the inclusion materials and process that by nature are time intensive/dependent and having to accelerate this aspect was very difficult for me. Ideally I aim to have more ample time to integrate, adapt materials/design, tweak etc.
Residing in two different states and shipping to a third also impacted our fabrication flow and lead time. Alas, we wanted to do this so we let go of some of our comfort zone and rose to the occasion. In the end, I’m very proud of what we churned out in the whirlwind of our collaboration and grateful to have had the experience of working together.
Bridget: Collaboration is always difficult on some level. It was a challenge to work so closely with another artist whose creation process was different than mine. The time constraints and financial stresses are never easy, but our outcome is over the top for the scope of the invitation for proposals.
How has your experience at Franconia Sculpture Park, whether past or present, supported you in this project?
Bridget: I began to think of my self as a professional artist while at Franconia. I am deeply affected by its continued support. I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without this place.
Joy: John and the entire team “family” at Franconia created a comprehensive artist friendly experience. The project and our needs were supported at all phases of the process from concept to install. Acting as liaison with partners (U of MN Bee Squad, HMR Foundation), assisting with on-site logistics & installation needs/challenges and providing a welcome “home base”, FSP was an solid anchor.
Working as an artist on this project was my first personal introduction to Franconia Sculpture Park. My takeaway…FSP is a haven for artists to be supported, inspired, skilled and create work. It’s an eclectic, communal village. The atmosphere created by John + team fosters art, experimentation, discovery and ambition. It provides an opportunity for art and community to encounter one another. There is nothing like this in CA, or in most states for that matter. And that is a shame…for the sake of art, those that live to make it and love to view it.
I know from my own endeavors in the arts (corporate and independent as well as non-profit sector), a place like FSP does not come easy. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, resource, commitment and sacrifice to enable it to thrive and evolve. And then it takes more.
To that end, I have much gratitude for my experience with FSP and to being welcomed into the fold as part of its growing cast of creatives.
Do you have any other projects coming up that we should know about?
Joy: In the immediate, I’m going to finish up an AFTA curation project in Northern California, then take some time to work on “Inside Out” a body of work I’m experimenting with…adapting imagery from my teleidoscopes and creating their alter egos in the form of other mediums (concrete reliefs, etchings or lino cuts).
And of course…under the guise of both AFTA and Joy Feuer I’ll be instigating, supporting and pursuing opportunities for environmental art…as yet to be determined.
Bridget: I recently repainted Playstation up at Franconia Sculpture Park, and after creating two huge sculptures in one summer, my next project isn’t going to happen for a while. My body needs some time to recover… so does my pocket book. I go in phases. One is the sculpture phase and when that is over I go into a drawing phase. Lots of new drawings and a very big update to my website (I have been neglecting this!) will be the first things I’ll be working on after this.
But, I have a plan that is starting to come into view in the next couple of years. I have a place to construct this large-scale project involving I-beams and a submarine! I have wanted to create a sculptural cathedral for a many years. I am going to start putting more of the pieces of that together (funding, proposal, submarine acquisition, transport after submarine acquisition). If there were a possible patron out there reading this- I’d love to tell you my grand plan. This will be my ‘a caelo usque ad centrum.’
This project was made possible by The Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation, The University of Minnesota Bee Squad, and Franconia Sculpture Park, with additional support from the Windgate Charitable Foundation.