Video Postcard from: The Florida Sculptors Guild and “From Start to Finish”

by Tim Storhoff

Recently, Florida artist Brian R. Owens created this video of a sculpture exhibition at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens and shared it with the Culture Builds Florida blog. The show entitled “From Start to Finish” took place last year and featured the work of the Florida Sculptors Guild, which aims to be the “go to” place for all things sculptural in the state.

The sculptures presented in “From Start to Finish” can be seen in the video below, which Owens and edited. He describes the exhibition as follows:

The title of the show embodies its theme. Each sculpture was accompanied by a printed description with photos of the process used to create it. The methods and materials of sculpture are diverse. Materials included bones, paper, fired clay, plastilina, bronze, plaster, ceramics, steel, stone, wood, fabric and wood branches. Methods varied from direct modeling (which is how I made my piece) to more complicated processes such as “lost wax” bronze casting. Pieces varied greatly in size. The intent of the sculptors varied as well. Marla E’s playful work included a sign inviting people to touch and rearrange it. Linda Brant’s work flows from deeply held beliefs about our relationship to other forms of life. The exhibit space was small but this shortened the distance between the viewer and the work, making the experience more intimate, less formal. The work was good and the presentation unusual. This may be why curator Rachel Frisby reported that the show was more than well received. It was a hit!

I asked Owens to discuss the current status of sculpture as an art form in Florida and what role the Guild plays in promoting it.

When you say “sculpture in Florida” my mind hears it as “opportunities to do sculpture commissions in Florida in the immediate future and be paid properly.” Such opportunities appear to be rare. I can only see things from my perspective and I don’t have a birds-eye view of the State, but it is possible to manage without one. The Guild is diverse so I’m speaking for myself when I say I consider Florida as my backyard and this time zone as my neighborhood. Florida may be in its infancy as a market but I’m working on my first transatlantic commission, albeit a small one. Systems that worked for me before, such as gallery representation, are now just another tool in my tool box.

The ability to share sculpture through film is an additional tool that Owens plans to use moving forward. “Given the unusual space and the lush surroundings, the decision to make a movie was an easy one,” he said. “Getting it done was a bit harder than I thought. I had to borrow a camera, build some gear, learn how to use apps and find music to license.” The video documenting this exhibition was designed for YouTube and small screens, but Owens says the next movie will be in high definition.

The Florida Sculptors Guild was established in 2008 and was the brainchild of Amy Wieck and Linda Moore. Wieck explained, “Our mission is to enrich, include and educate our community about the sculptural arts. We provide emerging and established sculptors the space, education, exposure, and connections they need for artistic, creative and professional advancement.” The Florida Sculptors Guild is a valuable resource for anyone wishing to purchase a sculpture by connecting them with its professional members.

You can find the Florida Sculptors Guild on Facebook or at floridasculptorsguild.com. You can learn more about Brian Owens and his artwork at brianowensart.com.

A Day in the Life: Brian Owens

submitted by Brian R. Owens

Last November we featured Mr. Owens’ sculpture, the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument. In today’s post, Mr. Owens shares details about a typical day in his life as a working sculptor. 

8:00 AM
The first thing I see when I open my eyes is a pile of art supplies. Eight o’clock is early for me. I’m not really awake. Carefully, I follow a path to my computer to play some upbeat light classical music that I found online. For me, music is like coffee. While my primary studio is in my home, the place only resembles a home from the outside. Inside, it would be a proper studio were it not for my current sculpture project that has transformed the studio into an unbelievable mess. This arrangement works for me but it’s easier to start working on art if I leave home and come back. I think it changes the chemistry of my brain.

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM
I start the day by re-drawing my concept for a sculpture commission that I’m competing for over coffee at a local cafe. I’ll continue this daily ritual until I’ve developed a composition I’m happy with. Naturally, I look outside myself for ideas and inspiration but I don’t wait to feel inspired before I put pen to paper. For me, habit succeeds over inspiration. Leonard Cohen said it best: “as a writer, you have to show up and go to work everyday. But you do so knowing that today it may not come … that you are not in command of this enterprise.” Today it came. I return home with a coffee in one hand and some good drawings in the other.

10:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Like most artists I know, I push myself hard. But I was unprepared for the level of sustained effort that goes into marketing and self-promotion. It’s 3 o’clock already and all I’ve done is move paper around. On average, I spend nearly half of my time doing this; a sobering statistic that I try not to think about. In a perfect world, I would have a spouse handle marketing and act as the central nervous system of this enterprise. I would also like to work in a castle overlooking the ocean, sculpt entirely from life and be loved by all. I’m not holding my breath.

5:00 PM – whenever
It’s five o’clock. Now the fun begins as I shift gears and continue work on my current sculpture commission. This one is paying the bills. Happily, I’m done with tasks that involve getting up early and working in daylight such as welding. For the next few weeks, I get to ignore the clock, work late into the night until exhaustion or collapse and wake up whenever I want, as is my custom. The plan is to apply clay to the armature I just completed. I’ve been looking forward to this part and to nightfall. With darkness comes tranquility. I enjoy company but I’m at my best when the rest of my world is asleep. The schedule requires that I accelerate progress and that’s fine, because the foundation of the sculpture is correct. One gentle, forward push of the throttle is all it will take now. The night-time is the right time.

Postcard from St. Augustine: The St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument

by Brian R. Owens

St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument. Bronze sculpture by Brian R. Owens of Deltona.

In May a bronze monument was unveiled in St. Augustine in remembrance of ordinary citizens who engaged in various forms of peaceful protest to advance the cause of civil rights there in 1963 and 1964. This was a critical period for the civil rights movement that had been unfolding in many states for nearly a decade. The citizens who marched in St. Augustine, who survived a staggering level of violence, are credited with helping to sustain the political pressure needed to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Historian David Nolan describes it as “the most important event in St. Augustine’s modern history.” They called themselves Foot Soldiers.

Detail of monument.

I sculpted the monument for a non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded by Barbara H. Vickers, herself a Foot Soldier. Her mission: to create a monument to honor anonymous citizen-heroes connected to events that were largely unknown outside of her city; install it on the most prominent, historic property; get it done in a time when raising private funds is a challenge, when we are at risk of forgetting our own history and perhaps, of forgetting that there is nothing that can’t be done.

Vickers surrounded herself with people who knew the inner workings of city government and how to organize a project like this. The St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Remembrance Project, Inc. was driven by a small core of people but powered by over 200 individuals and 20 companies that contributed to the project. The monument is permanently installed in the Plaza de la Constitucion, a public park in downtown St. Augustine, near the corner of King and Charlotte Streets, 40 feet from a historic structure that was once used to sell slaves. The City contributed landscaping, concrete and engineering services and is now the owner of the monument. Not all public art projects can be handled this way, but this is a method worth noting.

Detail of monument.

Just after the installation, I stood around while the adhesive that connects the plaque to the stone base hardened. Two men walked up – one white and one black – seeing the monument for the first time. They were in a loud, enthusiastic discussion of how to rethink tourism, of new ways to include the monument in advertisements, of the monument as a symbol of our human ability to find creative solutions when the institutions that should protect us fail us. Neither of them was alive in 1964 and still, they connected with the art. They were so excited – so physically animated – that I had to step forward to keep one of them from accidentally knocking the plaque clean off.

Now that the epoch of the civil rights movement is over, we may see it from another angle – as those two men did. It was after all, a human achievement. I suspect that, for them, black and white is a kind of TV they don’t make anymore. Green is the color that preoccupied us at the moment and it’s not the green of the natural world. St. Augustine is a city that is dependent now, as it was in 1964, on tourism. I have no crystal ball to gauge how the monument affects their economy, but I do know how much lighter my own wallet is now that my lady-friend has rediscovered the place. Shortly after the monument was featured on the statewide public radio program “Florida Frontiers,” I received a happy message from the producer with feedback. Apparently, lots of people were planning a little weekend getaway to the “oldest city in north America.” And if the metrics of my website are to be believed, then many of the people who visit my site – and it’s a big number – get a gentle invitation to visit St. Augustine as well.