Social worker Emily Johnson wasn’t expecting to see the blue head of a man-sized rabbit or a large skeletal concrete hand when she escorted a group of children to North Charleston’s Riverfront Park Friday, but she was pleasantly surprised.
“My first impression was that it brought a touch of sophistication that I wasn’t expecting,” said Johnson, who works at Medical University of South Carolina. “It’s a little edgy.”
The sculptures, some of which required cranes for installation, were selected for this year’s National Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition held by the city.
As in past years, the sculptures selected for the competition went on display for the May 3-11 North Charleston Arts Festival and will remain on display in the park through March.
“I think it’s kind of neat,” said Cornelius Bacon, 51, who was fishing at the park on his day off. “Who knows, it might inspire the next generation of artists.”
The sculptures were chosen from 47 entries by 22 artists, according to Annetrabue Nelson of the city’s Cultural Arts Department.
This year’s juror, who selected the entries and the winners of the competition, was Janet Kagan, a founding principal of the Public Art Collaborative and Associate Editor of the International Journal of the Arts in Society.
“Each of the 2013 selections eloquently speak to us and elucidate how the artists’ ideas translated into material form, the works’ relationship to both physical and human nature, and our evoked impulses for interaction and surprise,” she said in a statement on the city’s blog. “These nine sculptures create surface tensions that play with angled voids and intersections.”
“No two perspectives are the same as we walk toward, around and in the works,” Kagan said. “There is also a heft associated with these artworks — not just in their material, color, and scale, but in their aesthetic request for connection and dialogue.”
For Best in Show, Kagan picked a work by Texas artist Jeffie Brewer called Bunny. It’s a large blue rabbit head, simply styled.
Brewer said in an email to The Post and Courier that he was honored and humbled that his work was selected, and praised North Charleston’s commitment to the arts.
“Clearly the community sees the importance of art, specifically public art, and gets behind it with dedication and passion,” he said.
None of the sculptures are by South Carolina artists; the majority came from North Carolina. Bunny traveled the greatest distance for the competition.
“He (Brewer) and his wife drove non-stop from Texas, put the bunny in, and then drove back because he had a show to do,” said Ann Simmons, with North Charleston’s Cultural Arts Department.
Artists whose work is chosen for the competition receive a $1,000 honorarium. The winner gets another $1,000, with the money coming from North Charleston’s arts budget.
Several works from previous competitions — this is the eighth one — remain on display at Riverfront Park, having been donated by the artists or, in one case, purchased by the city.
“We started the exhibit when the park opened, because it is such a great place to do it,” Simmons said.