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Laurie OlinLaurie Oling | Sand Sculptures | David Stephens

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Laurie Oling | Sand Sculptures | David Stephens

LAURIE OLIN

Without the vision of landscape architects, our favorite outdoor public areas, landmarks, and structures wouldn’t exist. Suzanne meets with preeminent landscape architect, Laurie Olin, to find out how his famous designs came to be. Laurie describes the role of the landscape architect as “arranging the parts of the world and the outdoor spaces of our lives”. The process of creating any outdoor space must first begin with a need, says Laurie. Once that is identified the process of “creative daydreaming” can begin. At this stage Laurie begins to draw out his design ideas – moving and resizing the components until he’s achieved the right balance of aesthetics and functionality. This is not a linear process, says Laurie, there is a great deal of revisiting different aspects of the design and making necessary adjustments as the design process continues. It is also a collaborative process – it takes many people to bring a new landscape architecture project from original concept through to completion.

Suzanne and Laurie meet at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to discuss Laurie’s development of its beautiful sculpture garden. In 1994, it was decided that the museum needed to add a parking garage in order to accommodate its growing patronage. The garage was initially slated to be located above ground, but when Laurie was brought in to consult on the project, he thought of placing it below ground and adding a sculpture garden to the original construction site. The result was a design that met the functional requirements of the original concept with the added bonus of a captivating outdoor space that adds to the beauty of the museum.

Laurie has also worked on several other projects in Philadelphia, including Fairmount Park as well as The Barnes Museum. When thinking about what to create for The Barnes, Laurie says that he wanted to cultivate a feeling of “leaving the city and going somewhere else”. To achieve this he decided to layer his design components and provide passersby with several visually different and equally engaging physical environments. The resulting space feels separate from the bustling metropolis that surrounds it and creates an almost oasis-type atmosphere.

Some of Laurie’s other noted works include Bryant Park in New York, Getty Center in Los Angeles; he’s even worked internationally, having designed the famous Canary Wharf in London. Each project presents its unique challenges and Laurie says that he enjoys overcoming these obstacles to create an outdoor space that effectively marries form with function. He says that he finds his work to be “great fun” and believes the most rewarding part of his job is seeing people relaxing in and enjoying an outdoor space that never existed before.

SAND SCULPTURES

Suzanne visits the Jersey shore to meet with a professional sand sculptor whose creations are anything but child’s play. Chuck Feld has been creating sand sculptures for over 25 years and says he first started dabbling in the medium out of sheer boredom. During a vacation to the beach, Chuck and his son were lounging by the ocean with nothing to do. Chuck’s son was very interested in dinosaurs at the time so the pair started to make dinosaurs from the sand.  The lifeguard on duty saw their creations and told them they should enter the local sand sculpting contest that was going on that week. They entered the contest and won. Ever since, Chuck has been creating ornate sand sculptures that continue to grow in size and intricacy. Chuck is now one of the top 60 masters of sand art in the country and he has travelled the world displaying his skills and captivating audiences. There really wasn’t any secret to developing his skills, Chuck says, his improvement was mostly the result of a great deal of practice coupled with plenty of failures along the way. He has also learned a great deal by meeting and collaborating with some of the nation’s other sand sculpting masters.

Chuck details the steps required to complete one of his sand creations. He first cautions that amateur sand sculptures are often inadequately hydrated and that without enough water mixed in with the sand, there’s no way to ensure the structure’s stability. Chuck rounds up his sand, fills his bucket with water and mixes the two. Depending on the project he begins mounting several tiers of now dampened sand before adding details to the creation. He uses a variety of tools in his works including: margin trowels (typically used in masonry), pallet knives and various dessert icing tools.

Chuck says that he loves the fact that his art is temporary. While this aspect of creation may be vexing to some, he says that he sees it as an opportunity to come up with totally fresh creations and to never stop working. This even applies to Chuck’s most ambitious creation, a 30 ft. sculpture he created in Wildwood, NJ in celebration of the opening of the town’s new convention center. This piece required over 400 tons of sand that was gathered, transported and sculpted by hand. The castle wound up breaking the world record for largest sand sculpture created by hand without the use of any mechanical equipment.

While Chuck enjoys the accolades that accompany his achievements, he says his real motivation for continuing to sculpt is more personal. “I like the sand between my toes, getting to the beach early and watching the sun come up, and meeting new people.”

BLIND ARTIST- DAVID STEPHENS

David Stephens is a renowned artist who just so happens to be blind. He says he’s lost his sight, but not his vision. Suzanne meets with David in his studio to learn how his abstract designs take shape.

David says that he was drawn to art from a very early age. By the time he was seven, he had already developed an interest in the arts, and he began to sketch and design his first works. Despite his early love for artistry, David’s creativity was not the focus of his early professional endeavors. In fact, he initially focused his studies on math and science and studied engineering in college. While he was not actively looking to make a career out of his creations, David continued to learn and grow as an artist. His early forays into the world of art were focused around sculpting and that when he entered adulthood he decided to transition into painting. When David’s eyesight began to fail, he decided that it was a good time to revisit sculpting since that was a medium that he could still work in, even without the use of his eyes.

Today, many of David’s creations are wood constructions of various sizes and shapes marked by large brail bumps. These bumps are painted with a mixture of Elmer’s glue, sour cream and yogurt, as well as moss spores and other organic materials that will grow and cover the finished piece over time. Coating these pieces with this living material is a process that David call “turf tagging”. The larger of these pieces, called “Auguries of Idolatry”, are big enough to be sat on and interacted with, something that David says is an integral aspect to his work. Besides hearing how much people enjoy looking at and interacting with his pieces, David says that he loves the alone time that his art affords him. The quiet time spent creating in the studio is something that David cherishes greatly, and while there may be no one physically in the room with him at the time, he says he is never truly alone because his prospective audience is always there with him, every step of the way.

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