MOUNT VERNON — Two sculptors transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon this week.
Jill Downen, assistant professor of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute, and Dara Katzenstein, who just graduated from Washington University with her bachelor of fine arts in sculpture and art history, were on the Cedarhurst grounds Friday installing new sculptures for the Goldman-Kuenz Sculpture Park at Cedarhurst.
Downen was finishing surface work on her piece that transformed an existing support beam on the north patio of the museum into “Skeleton and Skin.”
“This is a site-specific piece designed in response to Cedarhurst’s architectural features,” Downen, a native of Belleville, said as a lift carried her up and down so she could work on the super-sized piece. “This is really the culmination of having the desire to work on an exterior of a building for 10 years. I hope it engages the community and changes perceptions of, and relationships, to architecture.”
Cedarhurst’s director of visual arts Rusty Freeman was “chauffeuring” Downen on the lift.
“This is a major outdoor installation for us. It’s so unique and innovative and creates an aesthetic dialogue with the building. It’s a first for us,” Freeman said.
Installing the work was physical, Downen said.
“It is physically demanding work, not unlike what a construction worker would encounter — tight spaces, height, outdoor conditions,” she said.
Katzenstein likely agrees with that assessment. She was also high in the air on a lift as she installed her piece, which transforms what was left of a dead tree into “Crane,” a sculpture that incorporates more than 100 steel cranes.
Katzenstein’s proposal was selected from those submitted by a number of Washington University students.
The cranes were inspired by the form of an origami paper crane.
“Historically, the crane symbolized happiness and prosperity,” she wrote in her proposal for the work at Cedarhurst. “The myth says that if someone folds 1,000 paper cranes they will be granted a wish. I think that the gathering of steel cranes will bring new hope to a dead tree trunk.”
The sculpture, another site-specific piece, is in the parking lot of Shrode Art Center, Cedarhurst’s community-oriented art space.
“The parking lot was designed around this tree but due to safety reasons, it had to be taken down when it died. When it was cut down, we asked that it be cut to the tallest point it could be,” Shrode director Carrie Gibbs said of the 12-foot trunk. “We’re trying to bring environmental awareness and trying to be conscious of our resources. We’re upcycling the tree; getting life out of it one more time.”
The artworks are the latest additions to the sculpture park, which features more than 70 artworks on 90 acres of land.