ST. GEORGE — You may have noticed some intriguing new figures in downtown St. George. On April 9, Art Around the Corner installed 20 new sculptures from well known artists for 2016-2017. The previous evening, most of the artists attended the show’s opening Gala and introduced their pieces with a few words.
I’d like to highlight two of the artists, who are widely recognized as master sculptors with significant bodies of work. I also want to share a touching moment from the Gala.
Franz Johansen is a classically trained sculptor and painter who has earned an international reputation for conveying deep spiritual meanings in his work. He is also a beloved figure in the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ art world, having taught at BYU for 30 years mentoring a new generation of creative minds. His most important works include his “Resurrection Series”, and the magnificent bas-relief doors of the LDS temples in Seattle and Washington D.C. Johansen’s piece in this year’s show is “Bethany”, a pensive young dancer, situated on Main Street near Print It Imaging Services.
Stanley Wanlass concentrates his creative efforts on a more earth-bound subject; the automobile. Through dynamic depictions of hot-rods, roadsters, race cars and daredevil drivers, Wanlass has become one of the world’s foremost automotive sculptors. For him, a car is far more than a collection of metal, rubber and glass.
“Cold exactitude isn’t art,” Wanlass said. “Facts bore me. I’m more interested in truth”.
International collectors line up to acquire a Wanlass bronze, so having his piece “Flat-Out” in this year’s exhibit is a prestigious addition. See it on the west side of Main Street, in front of the splash-pad and just north of the historic Community Art Building/Children’s Museum.
Here’s where that touching moment comes in. During the Gala, Wanlass began his remarks with an intriguing history of the roadster, but then he paused and fell silent. Clearly his emotions had overcome him, and he took a moment to compose himself. He turned to Johansen, sitting in the audience, to acknowledge an old friend and express deep gratitude. He told how he had studied under Johansen then later taught alongside him in Europe. His voice cracked as he told about Johansen’s influence on his life’s work. It was a moving tribute, from one dedicated artist to another.
And here’s why I share that moment. It was a powerful demonstration of the connections that art forges. I know I wasn’t the only one affected. Many others were touched as well. For certain, from now on I’ll always see a graceful Johansen figure, or a Wanlass hotrod, in a different and much fuller light. And because that singular moment happened here in St. George, and because their pieces are now in our community, we are all enriched.
That’s why art matters, and why the Art Around the Corner exhibit matters. These sculptures connect us to the artists, to each other and to our community. They also tie us into a larger creative vision that isn’t exactly of earth or heaven, but lies somewhere in the space between.
Now, go take a nice walk in downtown St. George, and see what you can see. The Johansen and Wanlass pieces are just the beginning.
Art Around the Corner is a non-profit foundation, dedicated to enhancing the community and elevating quality of live through public works of art. All purchases from the foundation are tax deductible. See more at Art Around the Corner online.
Article submitted by Cindy Trueblood, director of sales & community relations of Art Around the Corner.