Change of art
By Karen Lewis
Among the many festivities and
events planned for this coming Ojai Day 2003, is the unveiling
of a new monumental sculpture in the eastern end of the Arcade
Plaza Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
he new sculpture, "At Transition
Points: Turnbuckle No. 24" by sculptor Bill McEwen, will
replace the current piece, "Plume" by sculptor Bret
McEwen's stainless steel sculpture, over 10 feet tall with its
base, is a vertical assemblage of marine alloy stainless steel
cables and rods, separated yet connected to each other and held
fast by a 36" turnbuckle which acts as a transition point
between the cables above and below.
The turnbuckle is a device used in construction by which, in
turning two opposing screws, two endless cables can be pulled
taut and strengthened, allowing infinitely long, flexible steel
cables to carry the weight of a suspension bridge.
For McEwen, the turnbuckle is more than just a transition point
between two long cables. For him, it represents a place for major
emphasis, a place of great energy and activity, which he chooses
to feature by encasing its extremities in colorfully pigmented
The contrast of the steel rods
and turnbuckle, which, for him, are strong and masculine, and
the cables, which are flexible and feminine, represent the yin
and yang of the natural world. He further explores this contrast
of opposites by using accents of complementary colors in the
cubes and contrasting finishes in the metal.
McEwen has created a series of "Turnbuckle" sculptures
that were recently on view in his solo show at the Buenaventura
Gallery. He calls them "philosophically derived constructions"
which emanate from his theory that the most dramatic moments
of nature are found in the transition points, the intersections
and convergences where the greatest changes can take place.
A sculptor, painter, inventor and pharmacist, Bill McEwen has
long combined science and art. At UCLA, while majoring in chemistry
and psychology, he took beginning drawing courses. Continuing
his medical studies at Northwestern, he took medical illustration
and attended drawing classes at the Art Institute of Chicago,
where he had the opportunity to observe Hans Hoffman painting
"The Pond." A tour of the great paintings and sculpture
of Europe was followed by a tour in the Army where he managed
to combine research in nuclear medicine and research in micropulse
X-ray with the teaching of ceramics and ceramic sculpture.
While taking art courses and
the "Science of Color" at USC he also earned his degree
in doctor of pharmacy, and by the late 1960s, settled into his
day job as a pharmacist. While studying at USC, he designed his
first synthesis piece, a combination of sculpture and painting
in plastic and metal.
In the succeeding years, he has
collected patents, commissions and awards, twice winning Best
in Show for Professional Arts at the Ventura County Fair. His
sculpture has been exhibited at the Upstairs Gallery in Ventura
as well as at Art in the Park for the last two years at the Ojai
The unveiling of McEwen's sculpture on this coming Ojai Day marks
the first anniversary of the opening of the refurbished Arcade
Plaza with its Matilija Poppy Fountain, and of the resolve of
the city of Ojai to create more places within the village for
the enjoyment of public art.
Two such places exist within
the Arcade Plaza. One, at the east end of the plaza, has been
reserved for an annual, large scale,
monumental sculpture, to be changed every year on Ojai Day. And
the other place, at the western entrance to the plaza, currently
marked by an empty pedestal, is reserved for a smaller piece
of sculpture that will remain permanently in the Arcade Plaza
as part of the collection of the city of Ojai.
To aid in the selection process for filling these public places
with sculpture, the city has been creating a roster of artists
from the Southern California area, with an emphasis on Ojai artists.
The public art process includes sending out a request for proposals
to all qualified artists on the list.
A deadline is set for receiving
the artists' proposals, which are then reviewed by a public art
jury. The jury, representing diverse community interests, is
appointed by the Arts Commission for each city project. This
process is directed by Special Projects
Coordinator Kathy McCann, who
has been accepting proposals for the smaller, permanent sculpture
to be selected for the awaiting pedestal in the Arcade Plaza.
For more information on the Public Art Program, call McCann at
City Hall, 646-5581.
The Ojai Valley News
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