I am not, by my nature, a writer of political pieces.
While I do consider myself a student and eager observer of primaries, polls and ultimately elections, I do not feel as though it is my place to tell people what or who they should vote for. It feels, for me, slightly presumptuous.
But I’m willing to make an exception.
This week, the eagerly-anticipated finalists for the initial Augusta Gateway sculptures were unveiled and the public feedback period opened. What we have now is a race between reflection and conception.
Atlanta artist Gregory Johnson’s piece is a Moebius ribbon rising above man-sized metal azaleas. In his artist statement, he notes that the abstract form draws inspiration from a golfer’s backswing and that others have seen a fluttering pin flag and the flight of a golf ball. Comparisons have also been drawn, he said, to the flow of a river and the graceful form of a swam. The giant azaleas are easier to decode. In his presentation he noted a desire to add some figurative Easter eggs referencing Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters.
The rub, for me, is an old one. While much is left to interpretation, it is clear that this sculptor is focusing primarily on Augusta’s golf heritage. While this, given the location at Riverwatch and Alexander, may feel appropriate, the oft-asked question remains of how do we present the city as more than merely the first week in April. Personally, I also find the relationship from the larger abstract component – which I love – and the smaller figurative flowers – which may be difficult to parse at 50 miles per hour – discordant. But that’s just me.
North Carolina artist Thomas Sayre’s proposal presents a tower of earthcast conical forms, stacked in a manner recalling trail markers. Where Johnson’s piece represents a more obvious reflection of Augusta – or at least a significant aspect – Sayre’s is more conceptually driven, designed to be not only abstractly about Augusta, but of it.
According to his statement and presentation, each of the large cast forms will be built by digging a mold and pouring the form in different (and hopefully culturally and/or historically significant) areas of the community. In doing so, each component absorbs – both literally and figuratively – the essence of each site. The white Kaolin clay and the iron-rich red dirt. The cultivated soils of our parks golf courses to the still-wild banks of the Savannah. It’s an incredibly interesting idea and I personally love the idea of a wayfinding device marking a community entry point.
But there is a rub here as well. That’s a lot of information to pack into the average of six-seconds-at-a-time people will engage with the piece. And while packing so much content into a simple form is impressive, I’m concerned that most people will see only the form and not the idea. It may not even read as a cairn.
Still, I believe Sayre’s is the proposal that will get my vote. I love the conceptual nature of it, am curious as to how each site might affect the work and, quite frankly, believe it totemic nature might better stand the test of time – and nature.
But I am but one voice and I encourage everyone to weigh in on this. We aren’t talking about who will represent this community but how the community, in a very real way, will be represented.
That’s some pretty heady stuff.
Vote for your favorite Gateway Sculpture at the City Gallery on the first floor of the municipal building or online at https://augustaarts.com/gateway-sculpture/. The public feedback period is open through Sept. 10.
Tell Steven what you think by emailing [email protected]