On the shoulders of giants

As Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

The giants in Blue Spiral’s mentor exhibition are Western North Carolina-based sculptors and artists Hoss Haley, Stoney Lamar, Leslie Walker Noell and Kathy Triplett. The gallery prepared mentor in anticipation of Asheville’s inaugural HATCHfest, and the show features established artists who chose emerging artists they have mentored. The established artists invited Andrew Hayes, Mark Gardner, Kreh Mellick and Rob Pulleyn, respectively, as their mentees. The show includes sculptural and two-dimensional work in steel, wood, ceramics, drawing and mixed media.

Going big: Asheville-based sculptor Hoss Haley, right, encouraged his mentee Andrew Hayes to build ever larger work, which he did. Of Haley, Hayes says “his work defined my aesthetic from the very beginning.” Photo by Jonathan Welch.

“Andrew made contact with me, and he was nice enough to be a little persistent,” says Haley, the Asheville-based artist who first hired Hayes as an assistant in 2007 to help build the 9-foot-tall steel “Toric Arch” for the McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte. “Unfortunately, I went a while before I got to see what Andrew was up to with his own work, but of course when I did, I was pretty taken with what he was doing. There’s a sensitivity there that you don’t see that often, especially with steel.”

In 2005, Haley won a commission for a 120-foot-long stainless steel pergola and a 20-foot-wide bronze fountain for the Pack Square Conservancy. Both pieces are slated for summer completion. Like much of his work, these pieces appear simultaneously convex and concave, mechanical and natural, ordered and reclaimed. Haley has worked with steel for more than 20 years, exploring form, line, surface and space. The mentor show features the sculptor’s latest work in this realm: a series of stone-like forms made from half-inch-thick contoured steel plates, titled “Erratic Fragments.”

“Hoss is able to achieve this feeling of expansive space and distance, landscape and surface,” Hayes says of the man he calls his “biggest inspiration.” “Hoss grew up in Kansas and spent time in New Mexico. I grew up in Arizona, and his work spoke to me in every way. His work defined my aesthetic from the very beginning.”

Hayes’ own work references similar themes, yet his voice is distinct and his work has matured over the past few years. A recent graduate of the Core Fellowship program at Penland School of Crafts, just six months ago Hayes’ altered steel books and landforms ranged from 2 to 10 inches across. The mentor show is the artist’s debut of larger work, including two sculptural landforms that are up to 6 feet long, 9 inches deep and 18 inches tall.

“A lot of people encouraged Andrew to make that scale shift, including myself,” Haley says. “But I also understand that there’s a certain trajectory and you can’t really skip ahead. Andrew needed to get there at his own pace, and it was very exciting to see that from the sidelines. That’s one of the things I admire about him—he’s willing to follow that path with a fair amount of patience.”

Haley would know something about patience—when he first envisioned working with contoured steel plates, he had to make a machine that would enable him to pull it off. “The Unipress,” as he calls it, is a 40-ton C-frame hydraulic press made from salvaged materials that can bend and mold gigantic plates of metal as smoothly as a potter wedges clay. But to make “Toric Arch” and the Pack Square commissions, Haley had to build larger machines, hire assistants and experiment with the design process on a bigger scale.

“Hoss was able to figure out how to manipulate the material in ways that I thought were never possible,” says Hayes. “He’s always able to find the most efficient way to get something done, which I aspire to. That [“Toric Arch”] project got me to work a lot tighter and a lot cleaner.”

Evidence of this can be seen in every one of Hayes’ pieces on display in the mentor exhibition. Steel edges are rounded and smooth, yet not without character. His landscape forms fold inward and outward, toying with notions of two- and three-dimensional forms. Three years into their partnership as mentor and mentee, Haley and Hayes regard each other with mutual respect, the foundation of any lasting dialogue.

[Katey Schultz is a Bakersville-based freelance writer; read more of her work at http://katey.schultz.googlepages.com.]


who: mentor exhibition
what: Sculptural and two-dimensional works in steel, wood, ceramics and mixed media
where: Blue Spiral 1 (38 Biltmore Ave., Asheville)
when: Through Saturday, April 25


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