SCAD Unveils Promenade de Sculptures in Provence
OCTOBER 24, 2022 WEBB HOWELL
For centuries, the medieval village of Lacoste in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of southeastern France has been an inspirational haven for artists. Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso all sought out its rolling hills and lavender fields. For the past twenty years, Lacoste has also been home to the idyllic, international location of the Savannah College of Art and Design.
As the European location of the premier global destination for art and design education, SCAD Lacoste is now celebrating twenty years of creativity and innovation with the unveiling of Promenade de Sculptures. The enthralling, permanent installation of ten large-scale works embodies the ingenuity of ten student, alumni, and faculty artists — all elite representatives of SCAD’s talented network.
Curated by SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace and Chief Operating Officer Glenn Wallace, and organized by SCAD Museum of Art associate curator Ben Tollefson, the works pay homage to the beauty and magic of the Luberon Valley. The artists were chosen from an array of artistic backgrounds. They were inspired by personal experiences in Lacoste as SCAD students or faculty, or through alumni enrichment programs like the university’s prestigious Alumni Atelier. SCAD’s top-ranked programs in industrial design, graphic design, painting, fibers, fashion, and animation are all represented.
"The village of Lacoste is a space full of rich history and wonderful, hand-hewn structures,” says SCAD sculpture professor Justin Archer. “Rest and inspiration have been a critical aspect of this village and the Luberon region as a whole, drawing in remarkable artists and thinkers for centuries.”
Of his new bronze sculpture entitled En Plein Air, Archer believes it “recognizes that ephemeral beauty, found in the Luberon valley, is a necessary source of peace and restoration. The opportunity to cast this work in bronze at SCAD Studio in Atlanta, gave me the ability to contribute to SCAD's legacy in the region by inspiring local residents, SCAD students, and visitors. I’m tremendously grateful."
Archer conceptualized En Plein Air in the spirit of the Greek sculpture The Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 B.C.). He aimed for harmony between beauty and permanence, strength and ephemerality — qualities that parallel the medieval structures of southern France. Rising seven feet tall, the bronze-cast figure gazes purposefully across the sprawling landscape. Weathering on the surface of the sculpture evinces Archer’s exploration of the fragmentation of the figure and, for the artist, “serves as a reminder that, although we experience hardship, we can breathe in the hope of creation and offer that to others.”
Esteemed alumna Ashley Benton (B.F.A., painting, 1990) found inspiration for her sculpture during her time as a 2019 SCAD Alumni Atelier ambassador in Lacoste. It was then that she began a new body of work: a series of small, seated figures commingling human and animal forms. Expanding the scale of those works, her new sculpture is Benton’s largest work to date. Her bronze sculpture has the tantalizing title When they asked her “why?,” Odile thought about it and replied, “why not?,” and the lock on her heart opened.
Milan Bhullar, originally from Pune, India, is a current M.F.A. student in the SCAD furniture design program. Her new work, Transfiguration, is the expansion of an idea Bhullar developed in a class at SCAD. Transfiguration is a series of five stainless steel menhirs of varying sizes and colors that combine to foster a sense of introspection and retrospection. Viewers experience their shifting reflections in the faceted structure with the expansive landscape of Lacoste as a backdrop.
A reflection on the ancient need to seek quiet contemplation, Bradley L. Bowers’ Ooma is a response to our contemporary age and a culture bombarded with distractions. The double-curved dome references historic architecture while employing cutting-edge 3D bioplastic printing technology. The intricate geometric lattice work creates a permeable threshold, juxtaposing the interiority and solace of the self with the exteriority of the surrounding sweeping views of the Luberon Valley. Bowers (M.A., furniture design, 2012; B.F.A., industrial design, 2010) continues to amaze.
Inspired by the balance and creative energy of the Chattahoochee River ecosystems near her current home in Atlanta, Quito, Ecuador native Carla Contreras’ first large-scale sculpture, Harmonie, is the result of a contemplative process driven by curiosity and fascination. With its vibrant colors and patterns, the work made from steel and automotive paint speaks to the “artist-nature-creation” phenomenon. Contreras (M.F.A. painting, 2020) connects this experience to being “attuned to a striking sunset by the river, the harmonious compositions of rock outcrops in the woods, the complexity of organisms like lichens, or the overwhelming smell of the lavender fields.”
The powder-coated steel and Corten steel Tectonic Arch emerges from Kendall Glover’s fascination with the arch form. Inspired by her collage practice, the work challenges viewers’ assumptions of positive, negative, and dimensional space through the layering of colors and forms. As Glover (B.F.A., fibers, 2009) states: “When existing as a void, the arch may represent a passageway or portal. Stones of an archway hold each other in tension, distributing the pressure of the load. In Tectonic Arch, parts combine in a shared gesture, like alphabetic components that together form a phrase.”
Andrew Herzog’s background in graphic design and keen interest in language as a ubiquitous medium informs his sculptural practice. Herzog’s seven-foot-tall, reflective, lenticular structure features a typeface inspired by French street signs. The title HERE/ICI reads either “here” or “ici” depending on the viewer’s perspective. For Herzog, “public art should have some reflection of the space it inhabits.” An homage to its location and its international audience, the work’s reflective surface takes on the attributes of the landscape. Herzog (M.A., graphic design, 2013; B.F.A., graphic design, 2012) intends it as a meditative reminder to honor the present moment, as mutable as the viewer’s own experiences.
A paper airplane rendered in silicon bronze and embellished with silhouettes of the 12 zodiac signs, Melissa Richardson’s sculpture Star-Crossed is imbued with universal symbolism. Its skyward orientation and the variable nature of its surfaces propose a sense of unity through our hopes and aspirations, our common connection to the stars, and our ever-changing human natures. Melissa is currently working towards her fashion degree at SCAD.
Wendy White’s fabulously titled Raincloud (Neon Signs on Overcast Days) seems to achieve the impossible in aluminum and steel. The rain cloud has been a recurring symbol in White’s work since 2016. White (B.F.A., fibers, 1993) employs this form to express the transience of a fleeting moment while making the intangible physical. White’s cloud is a simplified, bold shape that is understood universally. In this work, White uses the precise shade “Curious Yellow,” produced in 1971 by the Chrysler Plymouth car company, as a nod to the themes of Americana, car culture, and nostalgia that permeate the artist’s larger oeuvre. White’s cloud also engages pressing environmental concerns, serving, as the artist states, as “a reminder of weather’s effect on human survival and nourishment as well as our ever-fragile connection to and dependence on the natural world.”
Nuance in Repetition continues Justin Zielke’s exploration of both realistic and abstract visual interpretations of the body to examine subjects of human experience. Zielke (M.F.A., animation, 2017) deployed both traditional and digital approaches to create a bronze work that exemplifies his fascination with the process of creation and its relation to individual identity. Through the obvious gestural marks rendered in grand scale, the larger-than-life-sized bust straddles familiarity and uncertainty.
In sum, the individual works represent something greater when experienced together in physical space. A grand unveiling on October 16, 2022 showed all the works in their permanent place. SCAD President Paula Wallace called the new Promenade de Sculptures as “a love letter to Provence writ large in the Luberon Valley. In celebration of 20 years of SCAD Lacoste, I cordially invite the public to tour our magnificent La Promenade.”