On Saturday morning, April 1, visiting artist Mark Grote meets a group of students in the sculpture studio for a seminar on creating sculptures from found objects. Tables are littered with everyday items and bric-a-brac such as nails, drapery pins, yarn, fabric pompoms, and small Styrofoam balls. One table holds a pot of molten wax and paper cups full of multi-hued powdered pigments.
Grote invites the half-dozen students to play. He instructs the group to take ordinary objects and make them look like something else. “Creativity,” notes the artist, “is just rearranging the old into something new.” All the work he and his students create today and during the two weeks he is at Furman will be exhibited in a show April 6 at the Thompson Gallery in the Roe Art Building.
True Inspiration Artist-in-Residence Program
For two weeks in late March and early April, Grote, an accomplished professor of sculpture at Loyola University in New Orleans, held lectures, classes, and workshops in his chosen medium. This rare opportunity is part of Furman’s True Inspiration Artist-in-Residence Program made possible by donor True Harrigan.
Grote has been working with sculpture for 47 years. He majored in photography with a minor in sculpture at the School of Dayton Art Institute in his native Ohio, and went on to earn an MFA in sculpture at Washington University in St. Louis. In 1992, he won a Fulbright Fellowship to the College of Art & Design at the University of Plymouth in Exeter, England. His work, which focuses on found objects, appears in myriad collections, including the Mobile Museum of Art in Alabama, the Dayton Museum of Art in Ohio, and the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson.
Rowan Griscom ’17, an art major with a focus on graphic design, appreciates having a new perspective on creating art. “With artists in residence, we benefit from how different everyone’s work is,” Griscom says. “The more exposure to different artists you have, the more your education benefits from it.” For Bethany Knapp ’20, it’s all about relationships: “To be able to interact and build a relationship with an artist in residence is what Furman is all about.”
Izzy Michell ’19 laces yarns of varying textures onto the head of a small plastic racket. Her boyfriend, Nathaniel Desantis ’19, a political science major who came along for the fun of it, is working on a smaller piece. “It’s pretty awesome to have Mark here,” Michell claims. “Having contact with a visiting artist gives me access to new ideas. It’s an experience that Furman offers and a lot of other schools don’t.”
By noon, the wall at the back of the room displays an eye-catching kaleidoscope of miniature sculptures. You have to look closely to see that these pieces are fashioned from common household objects.
Grote hopes that the things he says during his short tenure at Furman will resonate with some students who will apply his advice to their work. “It’s scary to work in front of people, but it’s exhilarating at the same time,” states the artist. “I have one of the best jobs in the world—working with young people.”