August 30, 2007
Gary Spinosa's solo exhibition at The Sculpture Center is something of a homecoming. The 1972 graduate of The Cleveland Institute of Art was born in Memphis but says that he "grew up in Cleveland, artistically,"...
Gary Spinosa's solo exhibition at The Sculpture Center is something of a homecoming. The 1972 graduate of The Cleveland Institute of Art was born in Memphis but says that he "grew up in Cleveland, artistically," nurtured by his immersion in the environment of University Circle and by the camaraderie of fellow students and faculty members at the Institute.
"I'm so glad to be having a show in Cleveland," Spinosa said from his rural northwest Pennsylvania home. "Gary Spinosa: Through Forests of Symbols," which runs September 7 through October 27, will be his first Cleveland show since 1995.
The Sculpture Center describes Spinosa's work as "intensely spiritual," noting that "his sculpture seems to arise from three strands of inspiration: the archetypal forms and religious rituals of ancient and diverse cultures from the African continent and some Asian countries ... a deeply held Christian religious faith ... and an intuitive and spontaneous response to the natural world." The mixed media sculpture included in this show ranges from large-scale work to small, hand-sized "stones" in an array of finishes and media.
A major retrospective presented last winter at Edinboro University's Bruce Gallery titled "Gary Spinosa: Philosopher's Stone" resulted in a full-color, 208-page book of the same name cataloging four decades of his work (Bruce Gallery Press). In it, Edinboro art history professor Charlotte Wellman described Spinosa's work as having a "sacred, ceremonial quality."
Said Spinosa, "I discovered that there are different modes of making art and one of the modes is the visionary mode. It's almost completely intuitive; the artist is kind of a tool that the art comes through, kind of like a jazz musician who's improvising." He says his professors at the Institute embraced and encouraged his visionary approach.
"The faculty in the sculpture department understood me; they nurtured me and stood behind me. They seemed to see that I was on to something," he recalls. Spinosa remembers fondly Professor Emeritus Carl Floyd and the late John Clague '56 and says he was fortunate to have had Professor Emeritus John Paul Miller '40 for design.
He says he was admitted to the Institute "on probation." But apparently, he proved himself freshman year because he received full scholarships every year after. In fact, Spinosa won an Agnes Gund Traveling Award upon graduation and used it to travel all over Europe, exploring museum and cathedrals.
After his whirlwind travels, he returned to Cleveland and set up his first studio. In 1981, he won the first place sculpture award at the Cleveland Museum of Art's May Show. He went on to earn an MFA from Edinboro.
"I've supported myself as an artist all these years and I owe a lot to The Cleveland Institute of Art. I was really fortunate to end up at CIA in University Circle, near the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Botanical Garden... all of that was right in my neighborhood. Great music, great art was all there. It wasn't only the school, but being exposed to great performances at the Cleveland Institute of Music, then walking across the street to go to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It really encouraged growth in a young artist. It was like a greenhouse; you were kind of sheltered there and there were all these great nutrients."
The Sculpture Center is at 1834 East 123rd Street in Cleveland.
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