Monday, February 7, 2011

Public Art in Process: Eric Wright

Eric Wright, completed sculpture, photo by Gary Thomas
From concept to completion, artist Eric Wright will overview preparing his recent public art commission for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority in three blog posts.  Wright was a part of the Oklahoma Public Art Mentorship, a partnership of the Oklahoma Art in Public Places and Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. The mentorship allowed Wright and two other artists with no large-scale commission experience to work in mentorship with national public artist Lynn Basa.  Basa came to Oklahoma to meet with the artists, trained them in the logistical and business considerations for their projects. She also offered ongoing feedback and advice to help them make their way through the multiple steps of the public commissioning process.  The other commissioned artists were Dan Garrett and Eric Baker. Read more about them in this article

Wright kept meticulous documentation of each stage of his project since it began in 2009.  I asked him to reflect on the conceptual, logistical and technical development he experienced.  

Eric Wright, Concept Sketch for OK Turnpike Authority project, 2009
Guest author: Eric Wright

For my first ever public artwork, I decided to limit myself to the Jersey barrier.  The what?  If you drive a car, you’ve seen it practically everywhere you go.  It’s that ugly concrete barrier lining construction zones and dividing highways across the country.  If you didn’t know it’s called the Jersey barrier, I didn’t either when the project began.

Why the Jersey barrier?  The agency receiving the artwork is the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, along with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.  The site is on the H.E. Bailey Turnpike – near Chickasha - and the overall concept for the artwork is one of safety, as the turnpike tends to be a dangerous work environment.  The Jersey barrier lines the middle of the turnpike, and is one element that does its job very well at keeping people safe.  Whenever you see tire marks and scars on a dividing barrier, it has more than likely prevented a cross over collision.  Because the barrier is so ubiquitous and utilitarian, it is easily overlooked.  That is why I decided to restrict myself to only use it in the work.
Eric Wright, Jersey Barrier slices laid on dry ground
I quickly saw that the profile of the barrier might lend itself to a nice design if it was repeated in a circle.  After making a small clay model and moving on to Photoshop to refine the design, I discovered it created a beautiful star.  A circular base created from the slices would make a nice foundation for a used section of this unattractive piece of concrete.  The concept is to present the barrier in a way for the viewer to reflect on the importance and beauty that can be found in this mundane, everyday piece of concrete.

All I had to do now was get a Jersey barrier and slice it like a loaf of bread.

See a full slide show of Wright's process here

Learn more about the Oklahoma Public Art Mentorship, other artists' projects and Wright through this Art Focus Oklahoma article or on this page

1 comment:

Lynn Basa said...

Great blog posts, Eric! Julia told me about it. I'm so proud of you and the other two artists for being able to see how your materials and aesthetic could be applied to a specific site on a larger scale. That first commission is always the hardest. Now, I hope you will be applying for lots more. Remember, to keep yourself from wasting your time and becoming frustrated with rejections, only apply to public art opportunities that meet your minimum budget requirement (don't forget to include your profit!), and that you feel an affinity for as an artist. I hope to compete against you as a finalist someday!