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Wednesday, 22 January 2014 15:03

Native art: Bill Eleazer bronze comes home to Waynesville 30 years later

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art frNearly 30 years after Bill Eleazer put the finishing touches on “Chasing Tadpoles,” a multi-piece bronze sculpture of three children playing in a pond, the former Tuscola High School art teacher’s work has come home to Waynesville. The only question is, where in town should it go? 

 

“This is the cart before the horse for us now,” said David Blevins, a Waynesville Public Art Commission member who is spearheading the project. 

Usually, the commission, which since its formation in 2006 has raised private donations to purchase and install five pieces of public art around town, first identifies art-appropriate sites and then searches for the pieces to match. 

“Now,” Blevins said, “we have the actual pieces and we have to work backwards to find the location.”

The reversal of the norm stems from a remodeling project at Asheville’s Biltmore Square Mall. As part of the building’s conversion from an indoor mall to an outdoor one, it’s getting rid of the sculptures that decorate its halls. The mall offered Eleazer’s work to the art commission, and last week Blevins traveled with members of Waynesville’s Public Services Department to extract the statue. 

“It was a little bit surrealistic for some of the mallwalkers as we came rolling in with an excavator,” Blevins told the town board at their Jan. 14 meeting. 

With the weight of the bronze and the stones they are attached to combined, the three sculptures, named Kristin, Luke and Brian, weighed between 300 and 400 pounds each. The crew got them to Waynesville, but now they’re waiting in the basement of the old town hall until the art commission can find a place to put them. 

That’s not as simple a task as it sounds, Blevins said. Preferably, they’ll find a suitable place on town property rather than on private, but the right location must be somewhere people are unlikely to stumble and hurt themselves on it, contain enough space and visibility to display the three 4- to 5-foot statues in an aesthetically appealing way, and be in the public eye to keep the risk of vandalism to a minimum. 

“The price of metal is so high there have been events where pieces were hauled off and sold as scrap metal,” Blevins said. 

Eleazer is sketching some ideas of how to place the sculptures, and those results will also influence the final decision. 

“Based on the amount of space (Eleazer’s idea) takes, we’ll get into the details of where,” Blevins said. 

But “Chasing Tadpoles” will not be the only sculpture that the mall’s remodeling effort will bring to Waynesville. After the crew removed Eleazer’s work, the mall offered the town a marble sculpture called “La Femme,” a 6.5-foot-tall piece by Myron Gauger that depicts a contemporary-style version of a woman’s head. At its Jan. 14 meeting, the town board reached a consensus to accept this statue and any others as they come available. 

Moving that statue will be even more difficult than it was to retrieve “Chasing Tadpoles” — 6.5 feet of Tennessee marble and 2.5 feet of granite pedestal combine to make La Femme “one heavy babe,” Blevins said — but he believes the effort of transporting, locating and raising funds to install the two sculptures will be well worth it. 

“I don’t believe there are any other mountain communities around that have five pieces of monument-size public art,” he said, adding that the strong presence of art in the community is just one more contributor to making Waynesville a such pleasant place to live. 

And, hopefully, to visit. 

“Every time somebody takes a picture in front of one of these sculptures, they take it home and show their friends and neighbors,” he said. “That message just goes out like ripples in a pond.”

 

 

Get artistic with your dollars

Though the town of Waynesville collaborates with the art commission — and sometimes, as when excavating “Chasing Tadpoles,” provides labor for the commission’s projects — private donations pay to purchase and install the pieces. “Chasing Tadpoles” and “La Femme” were donated, but the commission will still have to come up with the money to install them. 

To donate to the commission, drop off a check made out to the Waynesville Public Art Commission at Waynesville Town Hall. For more information or to donate a piece of art, contact chairwoman Ann Melton at 828.452.2500.

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