Thirty guests gathered at the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park Saturday afternoon, August 15th, to listen to David Stromeyer speak about his work. In the distance rose his enormous colorful steel sculpture, Shaping the Void. This piece is a different venture for Stromeyer from his abstract sculptures. He is now moving into a more figurative, and thus narrative, realm.
“I like challenges,” he said to the group. “Because I work in steel, there are engineering as well as aesthetic problems. Sometimes these problems are resolved in a single piece, sometimes in a series. My explorations in figurative work are rare. As you can see from Shaping the Void, I mean figurative in an abstract way. My forms don’t have heads and arms, just the most minimal suggestion of a figure that allows us to read the form as a figure, which we as humans are wired to do.”
Stromeyer went on to explain that his first ‘figurative’ piece was Keep Dancing in 1982. He’d made the fluid steel sculpture for his wife as a wedding present. “She was a dancer and I thought it was a good image for our marriage,” he said. His next figurative approach wasn’t until 2011. The Gathering, reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s La Danse − a loose, circular form of five figures, as if in a communal dance.
Because Stromeyer thinks and works with three-dimensional models and not drawings, he brought along four examples to demonstrate his methods. The models are made from light-gage steel or plexiglass to reflect the forms of the finished product. To get a sense of scale for a person beside or inside his sculptures, Stromeyer places a six inch, carved, wooden figure, affectionally named Doofus, beside the models. “I place the model on a lazy Susan and adjust my chair to what Doofus’s eye-level would see and imagine myself inside, feeling the piece above my head, to determine the scale,” Stromeyer said.
Four models, each a part of his new figurative series, were used for demonstration; Listen Closely, with two figures; Things May Have Shifted, with three figures; and If Not Now? a single, arabesque-like form. All of these sculptures can be seen at Stromeyer’s Cold Hollow Sculpture Park in Enosburg Falls, Vermont. The last model was of the large sculpture now at West Branch, Shaping the Void. All of these sculptures explore human relationships expressed spatially and how critical the space is between them. This space raises the question of narrative: What is going on here? Is it a struggle or a dance?
Stromeyer’s figurative exploration continues in 2015 with a brand new kinetic, wind-driven sculpture. For this piece, he created an aluminum model of tall forms that will share a common base and turn independently. “The engineering demands are daunting,” he said. When someone in the audience asked what Stromeyer’s motivation was for his work, he answered, “I am a maker and like to see things realized.”
The next “Conversation” tour at Cold Hollow Sculpture Park will be September 12th at 2 pm. Composer and conductor, Andrew Massey, will speak with David Stromeyer about form, function, and rhythm in sculpture and music.