Boats and Strollers Inspire Baylor Artists

Arts & Sciences News

September 17, 2009
Imagine a vehicle part baby buggy, part travel trailer. Make it supersize. Paint it turquoise.

Then muse on the monoliths of Stonehenge. Picture them being transported over the waves on pontoons -- no sinking allowed -- on a 200-mile trip.

Welcome to the minds of two artists at Baylor University.

Robbie Barber, an associate professor of sculpture, turned the first notion into reality with Stroll in the Park, a sculpture created from such salvaged items as air vents, the rusty wheels of farm equipment and a doorknob.

Meanwhile, Chuck Jobe, a Baylor University lab technician for sculpture and ceramics, busied himself with Currach, a 9-foot-tall sculpture which resembles two wooden boats joined together and propped upright a la the monoliths at Stonehenge.

The artists joined efforts this week to install the unconventional fruits of their labors at two outdoor sites in Waco. Their creations, which will be exhibited for two years, are part of the Waco National Sculpture Invitational, an effort to boost appreciation of modern art.

Currach is exhibited near the Freedom Fountain beside the Hilton Hotel in the 100 block of South University Parks Drive.

The carriage, which weighs about a ton and stands 10 feet tall, was placed near the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, 225 W. Waco Drive.

For good measure, Barber chained the baby carriage to a heavy metal "pacifier" which doubles as an anchor.

"This is pretty much a visual pun," said Barber, who has used baby carriages as a motif in other sculptures. "I got the inspiration for my first baby carriage from looking at Airstreams. They're built the same way a baby carriage is -- rounded and domed. I love the design of those cool little travel trailers from the '40s, '50s and '60s.

"This is light-hearted, nothing heavy-duty," Barber said. "I want people to chuckle when they see it. If that occurs, mission accomplished."

Jobe dubbed his 200-pound work Currach, derived from a Gaelic word for a type of boat, he said.

He built a framework, then sculpted cedar wood and used an abrasive technique to bring out the grain of the wood. Next, he used gray and white washes on the wood to make it resemble driftwood. For a modern contrast, he fashioned a sheet aluminum top and riveted it to the sculpture.

"I wanted it to be visually appealing and also inviting to touch," Jobe said. "I'm attracted to the simplicity of a boat's form, but carving the curve of one is really a challenge."

He said some of the ancient stones at Stonehenge are believed to have been transported some 200 miles across water, although how remains a mystery. Some experts have speculated that two boats were lashed together, resembling a pontoon, with the stone propped on a support between them.

While Stonehenge has stood strong through the ages, Jobe has no such expectation for his creation. He sees it as a work in progress.

"For these pieces, there's a certain lifespan, a visual and tactile progression that makes it like a living thing," he said.

"I'm not worried about this being here a couple hundred years from now. I'll be glad if it's here a couple years from now."

The exhibition, which began in 2004, is part of the Waco Cultural Arts Fest. Until 2007, the event was competitive, with a different juror each year. Since then, it has been an invitational, with artists selected by a committee.

Committee members are Karin Gilliam, director of Baylor University's Martin Museum of Art; Doreen Ravenscroft, president of Waco Cultural Arts Fest; and Carol Crosthwait, a Waco artist and a member of Martin Museum Art Angels, who are arts supporters.

"Robbie Barber and Chuck Jobe are both extremely talented and accomplished artists," Gilliam said. "Robbie Barber has been doing award-winning outdoor sculpture since graduate school. His art often centers around growing up in North Carolina.

"Chuck Jobe, although fairly new to doing outdoor pieces, has created an evocative sculpture."
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