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Ted Gerhart

Ted Gerhart

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I am biased about the beauty of wood. I love how the grain flows through a sculpture, and working with it in my hands is a constant reminder that the material I hold was once alive. It is a visual record of the experience of that trees' life. I think that wood has soul.

A sculptor friend once described us both as makers of objects. His work was mostly in metal, cast or welded, and some of it large and monumental. Often his creative process incorporated architectural design and planning the assembly of parts that he then had fabricated by fabricating companies. It was not a "hands-on" process, sometimes he would meet up with the finished product to oversee its inspection, and installation.

Reductive sculpture is a much different process, usually done in stone or wood, and the vision of the finished piece that guides that work must focus through a sustained effort of the body. The design and scaling of the shape are just the beginning. A carving is an artifact that embodies the imagination, but it is also physical evidence of the artists experience during the process of work. A large carving can require hundreds of hours, and when completed will have evolved, changing in ways not initially envisioned.

This evolution is conceptual as well as physical. The natural qualities of the material, subtly different from piece to piece, exert an individual influence upon the process of carving that can often be dramatic. A finished carving is a record of experience as surely as the wood's grain records the life of the tree from which it came. This is just one way in which a carving will "come to life."

There is a belief that as technology grows the work of the hand and eye become anachronistic, unnecessary. The opposite seems to be true, that the need for hand made artifacts of all kinds has increased over time. Computers and internet access have helped people widen their search.

One concept that is useful when talking about visual art is the computer world idea of VR, "virtual reality" as compared with RR, or "real" reality. Much of popular visual art is VR. The image hangs on a wall, or appears on a screen as movies and video, and we can enter the "world" depicted whenever we choose. Role playing video and computer games allow the player to move through complexly detailed simulated environments wearing simulated bodies whose experiences connect to the player through his choices and his eyes. The popular sub-meaning of this kind of virtual reality is that the player has grown in experience points with his simulation.

Sculpture has presence in RR and rather than await interaction, generates that experience with its presence. Sculpture can be touched, felt, and in this, case sat on. It requires your attention, and a person can develop the kind of relationship with a carving that people of a century or more ago had with portraits. For example, lovers often carried small portraits close to their hearts, and conversed with the image as though someone were there.