“Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature.” – Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)
Today we have machines with which we can create painting and sculpture without leaving our desk chairs, machines which will carve or model a piece of sculpture from an emailed computer file. Artists (those who can afford it) send their manipulated imagery to a company or a craftsman anywhere in the world who is hired to make it. “Why not? The computer is just another tool,” is the often-heard response.
Can there be a great sculptor who has never made anything with their own hands? Can there be a great composer who doesn’t know how to play an instrument? Can there be a great choreographer who has never danced? It may sound unlikely, but the answer is probably yes. Especially in the visual arts, there is something very important, however, that is lost in the digital production – the direct experience of the material with the body as well as the mind.
In contemporary sculpture, as with other art forms, long years spent developing physical ability – the craft – is what leads to insight and discovery. Mastery is the goal, but it is an elusive target. If you think you have attained it, you have lost it.
For the artist process is at least as important as product. The only way the product improves is if you remain dedicated to the process. Yes, you can create with your computer, but is that experience a rewarding one?
This is one reason why academic, and especially figurative art has become popular again, because the process is so much more interesting. There is also the history of art-making and the desire to understand the art of those who came before. Academic training in contemporary painting and sculpture has become popular again in art schools around the country. Working from a live model has also become popular among both students and professional artists.
At LeQuire Gallery we seek out artists who have mastered their craft and their medium, whether it be a traditional material like bronze, wood or stone, or new materials.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University, Sculptor Alan LeQuire spent a year of apprenticeship to Milton Hebald, an American sculptor living in Italy, and afterward studied figurative sculpture with Peter Agostini in the MFA program of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
LeQuire believes perennial knowledge for the visual arts should be the same as with the sciences, which is cumulative. He has been a part of the visual arts “atelier movement,’ offering the fundamentals of sculpture, passing down the body of knowledge, through his ‘Open Studio’, since 1984.
Best known today for his monumental sculptures Athena Parthenos, the largest indoor statue in the western world, and Musica, the largest bronze figure group in America, Alan LeQuire believes that the human figure is the single artistic subject to which all viewers inevitably respond. Monumental, miniature or life-size, LeQuire’s sculptures manage to achieve a living quality, which contributes to a long-standing career of public commissions and a consistent demand from private collectors.
As a figurative sculptor, LeQuire relishes the process – experimenting with various ways of handling the material (clay), always with the intent in mind to make the material and its treatment at least as important as the subject matter. He has a reputation for his unique use of surface texture, which enlivens the sculpture and is a natural result of the constant evolution of his technique.
“The moment an inanimate material seems to wake up and take on its own life is the central mystery of sculpture and what inspires me to begin each new piece.”
The Tennessee Arts Commission established the Governor’s Awards in the Arts in 1971 to recognize individuals and organizations that make outstanding contributions to the cultural life of Tennessee. The awards were created to recognize extraordinary contributions to the arts and achievements with state, regional, or national impact in whatever form they may take, and are Tennessee’s highest honor in the arts.
Sculptor and educator, Olen Bryant (1927 – 2017) was a recipient of the Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award in 2007. Customs House Museum honored Bryant with a retrospective exhibit the same year. LeQuire Gallery has been exhibiting his work consistently since.
Bryant, a 1954 graduate of the Cranbook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Michigan, taught by example and his influences are readily seen in his former students work, such as Scott Wise, whom we also represent. All follow Olen’s lead of using natural materials such as limestone, wood or Tennessee marble, and they all learned the lessons of giving these materials the chance to “speak”.
“Olen’s genius is his sensitivity to the regular flow of the grain and textures in the natural materials he uses. He follows them, listens to them and lets them guide him instead of trying to reform them. All the figurative spirits or beings Olen’s work is known for are never imposed into the material, but revealed by the material. This is the legacy of Olen Bryant”. – Alan LeQuire
William Kooienga has been a sculptor for over 30 years. His interest in carving and sculpture began as a young boy working soap, ice, wood, and native alabaster. After teaching woodshop, ceramics, and photography for 3 years at a school for emotionally impaired adolescents, he traveled; visiting the museums, galleries, and temples of U.S., Europe, and India/Nepal for inspiration before embarking on his career as a sculptor.
Initially exhibiting his work in galleries and shows in Michigan, North Carolina, and Tennessee, he won several awards and received enough commissions to settle on marketing his work solely by word of mouth until now. The inspiring work of Alan LeQuire and the reputation of LeQuire Gallery has led him to again exhibit his work publicly.
Kooienga has a deep connection and regard for nature and lives simply with his family in their hand-built solar-powered log home in a secluded hollow of Middle Tennessee. Most of his work emphasizes the beauty of natural materials with the use of organic, sensual lines and surfaces. He works mostly with native salvaged wood but has also used stone, steel, bronze, and found objects.
He has created commissioned works for well-known public figures such as Paul Allen of Microsoft, and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. The Tennessee State Museum has several of his pieces in their collection and his sculpture can be found in private collections internationally.
Three-dimensional media occupies a space defined through dimension. Being able to be viewed from many angles and in varied light offers an engagement through form that a painting cannot evoke. In short, with sculpture, there is an enduring, living presence.