Wednesday, October 14, 2020

METAL-ITY = Metal Menagerie

METAL-ITY, accent on the second syllable (think mor-TAL-i-ty), is an outdoor sculpture show at Artspace (63 Summer Street, Maynard, MA) that had its debut on September 19 of this year and will run to October 21 of 2021. The exhibition encompasses close to 100 metal-themed works of art from across New England. The show has received good publicity, so viewers are coming to Maynard from the greater Boston area and MetroWest.  

Use of the Artspace outdoor venue began in 2016 at the behest of then executive director Linda Spear. Artist/tenants formed a Grounds Art Committee. Each year, the committee conducted a juried selection of sculpture proposals submitted by Massachusetts artists. Entries were due in March, work installed in April and shows lasted through October. During the summer of 2019, about thirty works were on display. For 2020, Executive Director Jerry Beck, who came aboard in fall 2019, envisioned a metal-themed show that would include artists from all walks of life.

METAL-ITY sculpture
From the Artspace description of the exhibit: “METAL-ITY is intended to create a bridge between the past, present and future: from Maynard’s mill town history forged during the Industrial Revolution, to its current role as a growing cultural district, to its future as a progressive center for creative revolution, sparking a renaissance of cultural vitality and economic growth. METAL- ITY will feature the interplay between art and nature while offering bountiful opportunities for learning, while engaging in limitless art and community celebration.” Which means – I think – a lot of metal, some of it in various rust tones and some of it very shiny.

METAL-ITY sculpture. Click to enlarge
Curated mostly via word of mouth, Beck traveled throughout New England engaging with well-established sculptors, self-taught artists, high school students and Maynard residents. Names of many of the artists and descriptions of their work: 

From the Artspace description: “One of the highlights of the exhibition is the exceptional artwork of welding-course students from Assabet Valley Vocational High School, Marlborough, MA. The students created a surrealistic gateway of steel sculptures that showcases their immensity of talents, skills, technical virtuosity, and personal imagery. Their work includes musical instruments, spider webs, vehicles of travel, medieval iconography and strange plumbing devices.”

Some of the sculptures are animal figures. Driving north on Florida Road, one comes face to face with a gigantic frog. Wandering west, among the many sculptures, there is a horse feeding, a horse rearing, and an owl with outstretched wings. Elsewhere, a spider. Out back, bee sculptures complement the Honeybee Meadow.

Signage from "Where Do We Go From Here?"
Interspersed amongst the metalworks are fanciful wooden signposts, the fruit of the “Where Do We Go From Here?” project. People were asked to take home blank planks and paint messages and locations – real and imaginary – that reflected how they were feeling about the future in this pandemic time. Over 100 people of all ages returned signage with words and/or images.

Also gracing the Artspace lawn is Maynard’s only public labyrinth. In 2007, at the direction and supervision of artist and landscape architect Lisa Bailey, volunteers cut the pattern out of the sod, laid down a layer of stone dust and then installed more than five hundred rough-hewn granite blocks to create a seven-ringed labyrinth, thirty feet across. After many years of entertaining both children and adults, many of the stones have sunk into the lawn. METAL-ITY sculptures are atop the subterranean stones. A resurrection is planned for fall of 2021. The process will involve sequentially unearthing some 500+ granite blocks that each weight 10-20 pounds, putting a couple of inches of stone dust under each stone, then returning each stone to its original location. Between one and two tons of stone dust will be required. 

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