Politics in the park

There is a constant rumble at one end of the French Broad River Park from the endless jumble of traffic crossing the bridge over the river into West Asheville. Evidently, the noise was not enough to drown out Wayne Kirby’s pointed message coming from the eight small speakers spread across a small wooden bridge on the river bank below the cars and trucks.

His sound sculpture, “Fractured,” is the only work in Asheville’s RiverSculpture exhibition ever to be vandalized. There could be little visually in the work to offend, and the audio portion was left to the individual to interpret. It consisted simply to a series of voices reciting the first line of the Pledge of Allegiance.

This year’s exhibition seems much more inclined toward formalism than last year’s, perhaps because two of the jurors were different, or possibly because some of the most interesting artists from last year just didn’t enter this year. I have to admit that I really missed Kathryn Philpott-Hill’s “Previously Owned,” a Stonehenge-like sculpture made from old refrigerators, and Sean Pace’s “Leaning Tower of Education,” a massive leaning tower of books.

That said, the 2007 exhibition has been a huge success, and this year’s show has been held over for an extra month. It’s a good sign for the arts community.

The tour starts with a bang from the parking area with the sunlight glinting off Hayden Wilson’s “Hazardous Waste Containment” and continues along the path to Larry King’s “Big and Little Arc.” This piece has aged nicely, with the green of the bamboo fading to fall colors and blending with its surroundings.

Carol Orwoll uses pieces of tree trunks combined effectively with rusted steel parts to make a cluster of five narrow pillars in a work called “Trendsetter,” while Catherine Murray uses bronze castings of antlers to create her “The Extraction of Arrows.” Broken twig shapes form a point at the top of the work, and a cluster of grapes lies at its base.

Whimsy is provided by Barron Brown’s interactive “Pecker” and Gary Gresko’s “Yap Stones.” In “Pecker,” a cast-iron chicken operated by a foot pedal pecks away at a chunk of marble. Gresko’s piece takes you back to the invention of the wheel.

Brian Glaze and Samuel Owens both exhibit formal, modernist works, both in steel, and both painted bright red. Owens titles his piece “Arcturus” after the bright star in the Ursa Major constellation. The work by Glaze, called “Compromised,” brings to mind the paintings of Fernand Léger.

Karen Ives presents two of her roughly carved painted works using her palette of soft mottled colors. Mimi Strang has larger works this year, combining wood in muted colors with steel. Jason Emory’s untitled square steel column is broken near the top to reveal an organized tangle of pipes. An untitled found-object gazebo is constructed with clear, green and brown bottles and is attributed to “Alyssa Ray and thirsty friends.”

Charles Bennett’s light sculpture features a subtle progression of blinking lights along the high bridge above the park, taking on a political significance because of the low water level in the river that leads to thoughts about global weather disaster. “River Boat and Angkor” by William Rogers is another piece rife with politics, and is one of the most visually satisfying works in the exhibition. Local politics are best addressed in Robert Winkler’s “Gated Community.” The sturdy wooden tower stands alone, isolated. It is inaccessible, and seems full of fear.

[Connie Bostic is an Asheville-based painter and writer.]

who: Second Annual RiverSculpture Festival
what: An open-air exhibit of sculpture by regional artists
where: French Broad River Park on Amboy Road
when: Extended through Friday, Nov. 30 (Free. www.riversculpture.com or 225-3766)

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