Featured Image is: Chakaia Booker “Déjà Vu”, 2016
Rubber tires and stainless steel, 246 x 312 x 204 in.
As part of “an ongoing mission to make art part of everyday life,” OZ Art NWATM recently installed six major public artworks at Bentonville’s Osage Park.
These new commissions and recent acquisitions imbue the natural setting with visually enriched experiences. The public art at Osage Park was organized for OZ Art NWA by curator and art historian Chad Alligood.
Osage Park is the newest urban park in Bentonville, filled with natural experiences, recreational adventures and large-scale public art. The park offers archery, a lake, a 12-acre wetland ecosystem, floating boardwalks, a dog park and pickleball. It was designed to preserve part of the Illinois River Watershed for future generations.
OZ Art NWA is a Bentonville-based organization that is striving to make art part of everyday life in Northwest Arkansas, through public art installations and partnerships with other local organizations and establishments. Its aim is to provide accessible, diverse and contemporary art encounters through murals, outdoor installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings on view throughout the area.
“Osage Park is the perfect location for art that immerses visitors in the outdoor experience. When thinking about work that would complement this setting and inspire park visitors, we sought artists whose work illustrates a respect for the natural environment and an affinity for everyday life,” said Elizabeth Miller, art collection manager for OZ Art NWA. “Placing significant public works in our city parks is a meaningful way for people to engage with the world around them.”
Two of the new sculptures commissioned by OZ Art NWA specifically for Osage Park have natural themes closely linked to the park.
Comprised of vertical green reed-like structures encircled by a yellow formation topped with plastic globes, “Tall Grass” by Asia Ward is both beautiful and functional: at night, the solar globes light up, attracting moths and their natural predators. Asia Ward is a Pittsburgh-based artist. She thinks of her work as an opportunity for the community to learn and gather around ideas of the environment, water systems and energy production. “I wanted to make something that made me feel like I was a wetland creature looking up through the water at the tall grass,” Ward said of her Osage Park sculpture.
For “Garden Boats” for Osage Park, artist Jennifer Torres used the curving lines of the paths in Osage Park as inspiration for the shapes in the boats’ wiry forms that complement the lake. Jennifer Torres is a professor teaching sculpture and ceramics at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss. “As a sculptor, I build what I imagine, and there’s a lot going on in there, so I’ll be busy for a while,” Torres has said.
Another two artworks feature an aviation theme, complementing the activity of watching airplanes arrive at and depart from Thaden Field next to Osage Park.
“Launch Intention” by Griffin Loop is a 25-foot paper airplane made of steel with a rust-colored surface that rests in a field among grasses and wildflowers. Formerly based in Los Angeles, Griffin Loop now calls Bentonville home. He specializes in
large scale sculptures that “break down barriers and perspectives.”
“A paper airplane represents youthful innocence and fun,” Loop has said. “It is one of the first things we create as children and launch into the world. The Launch Intention project, based around this childhood symbol, takes us back to that carefree imagination and freedom. It stands for tapping into the intuitive self and truth we all have.”
OZ Art NWA commissioned “Flight” by Bob Doster, a cor-ten steel sculpture that sits close to Thaden Field and depicts the abstract form of airplanes, repeated in an upward trajectory. The individual airplane shapes are welded together at the tips of the wings: the topmost airplane appears to defy gravity. Bob Doster is a sculptor based in Lancaster, S.C. who has been creating and teaching for more than 50 years. He specializes in outdoor metal sculpture, often with repeated forms inspired by the natural world. Doster says he has been developing a series of sculptures like this one since graduate
school, inspired by his experience of learning to fly gliders as a young man.”
The last two feature distinctive materials used to create modern sculptures. This use of materials not for their original purposes reflects on Osage Park’s evolution from an unused wetland to an area now used for recreation and environmental conservation.
“Déjá Vu” by Chakaia Booker depicts two circular structures assembled from rubber tires and stainless steel. Chakaia Booker began her career making sculpture out of fabrics. She is known for using recycled tires and stainless steel to create abstract artworks. “Like a painter having a palette, my palette is the textures of the treads, the fibers from discarded materials, and tires that I use to create varied effects,” Booker has said.
OZ Art NWA commissioned “Fluttering Quilts” by Greely Myatt, three quilts created using traffic signs, which he then cut and riveted to painted aluminum plates. The quilts that comprise this sculpture employ different patterns traditionally used in quilt making, each with its own unique name: “Lady of the Lake,” “Tumbling Blocks” and “Drunkard’s Path.” Greely Myatt works out of his studio in Memphis. For the past three decades, he has made sculptures modeled after quilts. He uses inspiration from his childhood memories, in which he often saw large quilts draped over his grandparents’ outdoor clotheslines. Unlike traditional quilts, Myatt’s sculptures stand up on their own and are rigid and upright instead of soft and draping. According to the artist, this is so they can be understood as monuments celebrating everyday life in the region.