After a number of short conversations, Helena collectors Jim and Cindy Utterback invited me to visit their home and property. They had expressed interest in a large-scale piece of outdoor art that would complement their home and property. We walked the property and documented a few potential sites. On the subsequent visit I presented them with some options and after careful consideration they elected to move forward with a permanent installation of my wire-mesh House structures.
The Helena Bike Tower honors the cycling community of Helena, Montana. The genesis of the idea came about during a conversation with Pat Doyle, a leader of the cycling community in Helena and Judy Merical of the Great Northern Town Center in downtown Helena. The form of the tower is a one-half scale version of Helena’s historic downtown Fire Tower, originally built in the late 19th C. on a prominent hill as a lookout point for fires. The historic Fire Tower has become the iconic visual symbol of downtown Helena. The Great Northern Town Center generously donated a site for the tower along with a commitment to its long-term maintenance.
In 2015, the members of WABA (World Association of Brick Artists) were invited to exhibit at the Nau Gaudi Art Museum in Mataro, Spain. Founding members include: Ulla Viotti (Sweden), Jacques Kaufmann (France/Switzerland), Gwen Heeney (Wales, UK), Fritz Vehring (Germany) and myself (Robert Harrison (USA/Canada) with recently added member Andrew Burton (UK).
Sculptural Fence, Stack and Lanterns
Commissioned by Midge and Jerry Golner for their Helena, Montana residence. The commission started with a challenge to rework the old chain link fence in the front of the house. Utilizing materials and techniques used in a number of previous sculptural works, the sculptural fence combined with the beautiful annual plants and flowers brought artistic prominence to the residence. The sculptural stack in the rear of the property created a visual connection to the front. In the summer of 2014 the sculptural lanterns added the finishing touch to exterior of the Golner residence.
Commissioned for the Montana State Justice Building, in Helena, Montana and unveiled in July, 2014.
This memorial area commemorates former Montana Attorney General Joe Mazurek, who inspired Department of Justice employees with his deeply held belief in the value of public service. Joe routinely ended conversations with Department of Justice employees with the phrase memorialized here: “Be happy in your work.”
Referencing the physicality of modern steel grain silos that dot the landscape in Montana and the west, this is a reinterpreted resurrection of the silo element that I used in the Architecture of Space: Montana Vernacular at the Holter Museum of Art in 2009. The wooden structure of the piece was utilized and indigenous granite was procured from Granitewood, our property west of Helena.
Commissioned and installed in April, 2013, this site-specific architectural sculpture uses local/regional construction materials (galvanized steel horse fencing and culvert pipe, aluminum tubing, brick) along with ceramic shards gathered from the Casper community. Installed over a 3 day work period with generous assistance from the Nicolaysen and Casper College.
In July of 2013 I was invited to a brick symposium in Latvia with a group of like minded artists, including some of my WABA (World Association of Brick Artists) brick mates. Titled Meditation Light, the concept of the symposium was to incorporate some aspect of light into the brick sculptures. Arrangements had been made for us to stay in a wonderful old country house / castle in eastern Latvia, and travel to and from a Soviet era brick factory to create sculptural works from brick. The pieces we made were to be installed in the Latvian town of Cesis, with the famous 12th Century Cesis Castle at it’s heart and the birthplace of the red and white Latvian flag. Cesis Castle is a fantastic historic ruin, with an amazing history of medieval battles and romantic tales of valor. What an amazing opportunity to make, install and exhibit sculptural brick pieces.
I was challenged by M&G Golner to replace an existing nondescript fence with one that would compliment the residence. My solution was to employ my palette of familiar re-purposed materials (ABF brick, and ceramic objects and shards) and galvanized steel woven-wire fencing accented with re-claimed aluminum tubing. The flower and grass accented beds are stunning, and compliment the installed art work.
Commissioned for the Barbara and Joseph Brinig collection in Sunsites, Arizona, this pair of stacks were sited on the property to welcome visitors to the Brinig residence and ranch. Using materials indicative of western ranches (galvanized steel culvert pipe and horse fencing, edged with aluminum tubing) Dos Compadres Stacks are filled with stone and found objects gathered from the property. The stacks have enough visual space between them to suggest independence, yet are close enough together to indicate an established relationship.
Sonderborg House was designed and built during the first World Association of Brick Artists (WABA) symposium held at Petersen TEGL (brick factory) in Broager, Denmark in 2011. Sonderborg Municipality in southern Denmark along with Petersen TEGL sponsored the symposium. This part of southern Denmark (close to the northern German border) has tremendous natural clay deposits and during it’s nineteenth century heyday had over 120 brick factories lining its fjords. Today only a few factories remain in production. Brick beaches line the edges of some of the local fjords, and hundred year old brick jewels of every color, shape and description await discovery.
Commissioned for the garden patio of the Satre Echart residence, this site-specific architectural installation is meant to frame the eastern edge of the patio and function as an entry/exit point for visitors. The piece is shoe-horned into an existing space between an indigenous shale stone wall and a portion of the garden.
Designed and built over a three year period (2007-1010), Exploration Arches are meant to intrigue and entice the viewer to enter Exploration Works: A Museum of Science and Culture in Helena, Montana. Each arch has a theme (the human body, nature and technology) that relates to educational programs run by the museum. The arches are site-specific, built on site and taper in size from the largest welcoming human body arch to the smallest technology arch just before you enter the museum.
Snow Catcher Arch was installed at Red Deer College, in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada in 2010. The project occurred in 2 phases. The first phase was to assemble and carve 1500 wet clay brick obtained from a brick factory in Abbotsford, British Columbia. The arch was assembled in 3 parts; two tapering columns and the arch itself. Once the bricks had been stacked into the appropriate shape and size, the bricks were faceted with sharp steel palette knives. An iron oxide wash was applied to the surface and the cut and carved brick were left to set for a number of days. When the bricks were stiff enough to handle without distorting the edges, the columns and arch were disassembled for the drying period. Each brick was incised with a number as the bricks came off, and a map of the brick layers were recorded to assist in re-assembly.
I was invited to Gimhae, Korea to participate in an exhibition titled Architectural Ceramics Now & New at the Gimhae ClayArch Museum in 2009. The museum is relatively new and beautifully sited on a hillside with an agricultural below in southern Korea. The dozen + artists invited included half from Korea and the other half internationals, with some who had not or did not normally work with ceramic materials. I chose to work with fired industrially produced materials; brick and densely fired, glazed ceramic electrical insulators. An ideal site was chosen on an entry/exit path of the museum.
Eucalyptical Arch was installed on the campus of Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Sited in a courtyard of eucalyptus trees and using locally produced brick that were carved, dried and fired at the ceramics department at ANU. The arch incorporates a wide variety of ceramic objects made by students and staff. Ceramics Professors Janet DeBoos and Greg Daly made generous contributions of their work to the arch project.
Site-specific architectural sculpture; hand altered brick, brick, stone, ceramic elements, mortar, concrete, rebar steel, powder-coated steel culvert pipe, water-jet cut ceramic tile, grout
November, 2001 with the assistance of Ceramics Professor Dan Anderson and ceramics students enrolled in the ceramics program at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
Site-specific architectural sculpture commission; 1600 hand-altered wet clay brick with hand-altered wet clay pipe sections. Built in conjunction with the Northern Potters Associated Ceramic Festival.
24 sculptural elements; Styrofoam, fiberglass mesh, thin-cement with acrylic compounds, color, gold leaf
Site-specific architectural sculpture; hand-altered brick and pipe products, cement; built during “Creating the Yellow Brick Road” Symposium and Conference