Waypoints James Strickland
September 23 - November 30, 2011
(Avove: Gateway (detail of maquette), stainless steel, evacuated solar tubes, 24 carat gold leaf, 18' x 20' x 10', kinetic, wind driven, solar collection sculpture.)
The Atrium Art Gallery at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, presents “Waypoints: Happenstance and Longed-for Arrivings”, a solo exhibition by James Strickland. The exhibit will highlight recent work by artist, theologian, heliocentric and kinetic sculptor, James Strickland, whose studies of architecture, Japanese temples, martial arts, ocean navigating, mountaineering, and technology illuminate his work.
The exhibition’s title, Waypoints, refers to a two-part permanent sculpture of the same title installed at the college in 2008. In nautical terms, a “waypoint” is a set of coordinates that marks a physical point. In metaphorical terms, a waypoint marks a culmination of thought and process. For the artist, it represents a milestone along a creative path.
Strickland’s latest work embraces technology in not only the process, but also in the final work.
A resident of Belfast, Maine, Strickland is originally from Oklahoma. Strickland has degrees from Arizona State University and California Divinity School of the Pacific. His work has been included in over 100 exhibitions around the country and abroad. While studying for the ministry, Strickland spent summers as a skipper delivering boats to several Pacific Islands and Hong Kong. In addition to a doctorate in theology, he studied architecture and apprenticed with Paolo Soleri and Charles Eames later studying Japanese temple architecture with Hiroshi Hasanawa. With side roads into kendo martial arts, mountaineering, and ballooning, his artistic journey brought him—via sailboat in 1999 with his partner artist-designer Patricia Shea—to Belfast Maine. He creates large and small scale sculpture in an 1888 studio barn for municipal, corporate, and private commissions.
The Floating World of James Strickland
James Strickland divides artists into two groups: those who find one thing and pursue it all their lives and those who explore many paths and mediums. The Oklahoma-born artist places himself squarely in the latter category having worked in a number of different disciplines, from jewelry and architecture to sculpture and painting.
Strickland’s frame of reference for his art and life is wide-ranging. Conversing with a visitor to his Belfast studio, he mentions choreographer George Balanchine, a doctorate in theology, and Google SketchUp. He also talks about living in Japan, heliocentric sculpture, and a work of his that survived the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
That doctorate in theology, which Strickland pursued as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, adds a noteworthy layer to a distinctive sensibility. “I like the concept of thinking about things more than this visceral manifestation of putting things together,” the artist confesses, and then quickly states how much he loves the creative act. “I feel that there’s this physical world out there,” he explains, “and we’re meant to connect with it somehow—and art is a very good tool to do that.”
When speaking about his sculpture, Strickland is apt to make cross-disciplinary connections. “As a sculptor,” he notes, “I have a lot in common with Balanchine in that I have to use—or defy—the laws of physics in order to imply motion or weightlessness or weight or grace.” Painting, too, allows him to “cheat” physics: “If you need to float something, you float it.”
This sense of floating derives in part from the fact that Strickland is a sailor (he remembers sailing with his teacher, famed designer Charles Eames, off the California coast), but it also relates to time spent in Japan. From 1971 to 1973 he apprenticed to the woodworker Hiroshi Hasinawa in Kyoto. He is still haunted by that sojourn, and his work often reflects his experiences there, from the kites he has created that feature Utamuro-like visages to an astonishing replica of Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.
Strickland has “crossed over” in another intriguing way: his sculptures often produce energy, via built-in solar panels and/or wind vane elements. These heliocentric pieces represent an attempt to not only make the work green, but also to blend mechanics and art. “I’d love to get the engineering world involved in making creative and beautiful decisions,” he says, adding with a smile, “There’s no reason solar panels have to look so ugly.”
In recent years Strickland has found himself seduced by various computer modeling programs, including Google SketchUp. While he prides himself on his skills as a draftsman—and the drawings in this show bear him out—the ability to manipulate line and color on a monitor is enticing. “It’s not a substitute for knowing how to make maquettes,” he notes, “but it’s a really handy tool.”
Since arriving by boat in Belfast Harbor in 1999, accompanied by his artist-designer partner Patricia Shea, Strickland has been active in the Maine art scene, most notably through several Percent for Art commissions around the state, including Waypoint at Lewiston-Auburn College. He always hopes that his public pieces will speak to those who encounter them, be they students on the way to class or visitors to a federal building.
An early commission, A Fallen Oak Tree, 1975, exemplifies that sought-after connection. An Oklahoma City resident once wrote Strickland to relate how at lunchtime he would take sandwiches to his wife who worked in the Murrah building and how they would sit on a bench in front of his large carved oak relief and discuss what it meant—“kind of like looking at clouds and making up stories,” Strickland says. The man lost his wife in the bombing, but, as he related to the artist, he still bought sandwiches and went to sit before the sculpture in its new setting in the memorial building and commune with his loved one.
“You end up where you are,” Strickland states as his visitor prepares to leave, “and somehow I have ended up here,” he notes, gesturing to a Maine barn filled with an array of engaging work. “I certainly love the freedom this life gives me,” the artist-sailor says, his world floating wonderfully around him.
Carl Little has written about a number of sculptors, including Bernard Langlais, Celeste Roberge and Jesse Salisbury. His most recent book is The Art of Dahlov Ipcar.
(Above: Voyager, 24 carat gold leaf, wood, and metal, 7' x 2' x 2', obelisk sculpture utilizing IC magnetic technology for levitation of sphere)