Case Western Reserve University recently celebrated the dedication of Inner Circle, a sculpture by internationally recognized artist David Deming, president and CEO of the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA). The circular abstract piece in stainless steel is the 35th artwork--and third artist from the institute--commissioned for the John and Mildred Putnam Sculpture Collection on the university campus.
Deming told guests at the dedication that he was inspired by images of a Mesoamerican folk figure CHACMOOL, which was a type of sculptural figure introduced by the Toltec civilization and found later in Chichen Itza, a late Maya site in the Yucatan. Deming saw the image in a slide show during Frances Taft's class as a student at CIA. His initial interpretive experience based on that image was to create a performance piece for that class, but over the past 20 years, the image has driven ideas for a number of his works in metals. Inner Circle is among the latest of abstract pieces in the "rockers" series.
The many meanings of rocking and "the cycle of motion" hold a fascination for Deming. While he has created a few kinetic works that move, he stated "that capturing the essence of movement is more important to me than creating real movement."
"People have described my work as though the works were a frozen moment or a stop action," he said. For instance, Inner Circle's brushed textured surface continually reflects the changing light angles, giving an elevated sense of motion to the fixed work.
The work's name aptly describes its form. Deming said, as people approach the piece, he hopes they might recognize a head-like form on the inner circle, as if arms and legs come together forming a figure curled up and rocking on its back.
The main body of most of Deming's work is comprised of abstracts rather than academic figures. But he added, "I love figuration so much that no matter how abstract I get, there is a link to figuration."
Deming's style evolved from his training at CIA with figurative sculptor and artist William McVey. Deming described McVey as his mentor and talked about his opportunity to work with the sculptor in his Pepper Pike studio. Deming received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from CIA in 1967 and his Master of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1970.
Today Deming creates his works from the Sculpture Center at Euclid Avenue and East 123rd Street--just blocks away from where Inner Circle was installed at East 115th Street and Bellflower Road in the university's North Residential Village.
He told the guests during the dedication on October 30 that he put a band saw to blocks of wood and constructed approximately 10 models. He took each model to the site before he selected the model he presented to Professor Harvey Buchanan, the Putnam Collection director. After the piece was approved by the Putnam Committee, Deming spent an "intense" week of 10- to 12-hour days last year between Christmas and New Year’s Day completing the sculpture.
"We now have this marvelous sculpture by Cleveland's premier sculptor in the collection," said Buchanan.
Deming's art is found in more than 100 private and public collections. His sculptures have been shown in competitive and invitational exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including an outdoor work that was part of the "American Sculpture Exhibition" at the White House. He has had more than 50 one- and two-person shows.
Other artists from the Cleveland Institute of Art featured in the collection are McVey (The Good Samaritan, 1982; Hart Crane Memorial, 1985l; Michelson and Morley, 1988) and David Davis (Start, 1981).
Established in 1981 with an endowment from the Putnam family, the John and Mildred Putnam Sculpture Collection enhances the indoor and outdoor landscapes of the campus with works by artists from the region. The first piece commissioned for the collection was Gene Kangas's Snow Fence in 1981. Another notable work is an abstract sculptural garden called Turning Point (1996), which includes the first sculpture by the late architect Philip Johnson, a Cleveland native.
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