"Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it 'creative observation.' 'Creative viewing.'"
                                                                                                                                — William Burroughs


One of the oldest sayings in our lexicon is, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
One might also ask, "If an artist produces a piece of art no one sees, is it really art?"
While we here at Up and Coming Weekly can only shake our collective head at the first riddle, we’re going to tackle the second one straight up by sponsoring a trio of sculptures by Wilmington-based artist Paul Hill at our own Gallery 208, beginning June 26.
The sculptures, which will be on display at Gallery 208 for a year, will give the public a chance to see first-rate art that might have otherwise been unknown to them, or secreted away in a private collection or art museum — works that are truly “art for the people,” says Michele Horn, assistant director/curator for the Fayetteville Museum of Art.
"This allows access to sculpture for those who might feel intimidated by an art museum," said Horn. "This is art they can walk by and see, or even drive by in their car and see."
While we’d rather you come into Gallery 208 to view the exhibit, a drive-by is fine, though anathema to the subject matter of one of the three pieces — "Insatiable." This particular piece, which is a medium of steel and collage, shows America’s gluttony — as the title implies — for fuel. The sculpture includes a metallic goat wearing a collage of articles about the rising cost of oil while standing atop a 50-gallon oil drum and an old oil pump. If you look inside the barrel, you’ll find a makeshift oil valve, which artist Hill says represents “the oil is coming out of the ground, but not out of the well.”
{mosimage}"I typically don’t make a social commentary with my art," said Hill, a 61-year-old native of Texas. "But this subject seems to be so much in the news and on just about everybody’s worried mind."
Hill, who spent most of his career as an illustrator, took up sculpture just eight years ago, helped along by friends who gave him a crash course in welding.
"Learning the welding wasn’t that difficult," said Hill. "It’s coming up with the ideas and executing them that takes time."
For Hill, "executing" a piece from sketch to completion usually takes about two months. Sometimes, he stretches out the completion date by adding on to a piece that looks like a finished product. Such is the case with Natural Progression, a steel sculpture that will also be on display at Gallery 208.
Natural Progression is an elongated, nearly life-sized — at 11 feet tall — representation of a mother giraffe and her child. Hill says the piece is a direct reflection of how he sketches.
"'Natural Progression' comes closest to what one of my initial sketches of a project looks like," said Hill. “And it’s not finished. I plan to add the father, who will be larger than the mother, to create an archway between the two sculptures.”
Animals are a central theme in Hill’s work. If you check out his many art works at www.absolutearts.com, you’ll find a veritable menagerie of creatures great and small.
“I find animals to be so graceful,” said Hill. “It’s a serenity I feel akin to.”
Hill’s third piece that will be on display at Gallery 208 is also animal-related, a mixed-media sculpture of a fish entitled "Once Too Often." Crafted out of an amalgam of aluminum, stainless steel, copper and bronze, "Once Too Often" is also an amalgam of sea life.
"Living here in Wilmington, fish are part of the landscape, what with fishing boats and deep sea charters," said Hill. "I didn’t model this after one particular type of fish — it’s an imaginary fish made up in my head."
Hill says the theme of "Once Too Often" is that of “ruling the roost,” as the fish is rising upward off its base, with the head topped by a rooster-like crown.
And visiting this display at Gallery 208 might just allow you to “rule the roost” among your friends when discussing the merit of public displays of art.
The exhibition officially begins June 26 with a premiere party at Gallery 208 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

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