Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University fine arts professor David Lobdell’s steel sculpture “Blue Rail” is being featured in a Six Mile Sculpture Works exhibit in Granite City, Illinois.
Lobdell’s piece was cast at the Amsted Rail Company in Granite City in the summer of 2017 for an industry meets the artist program.
“As this is an inaugural piece for the program, I made it look like train wheels with an axle to relate to the work the company does in this old industrial steel town,” Lobdell said. “It’s also painted in the company colors of blue and white. Amsted produces the majority of rail cars in the United States.”
Lobdell said it was a transformative experience to create a sculpture in an industrial setting that is more mechanical than the art he typically makes.
“I’ve dreamed for 40 years about working in an industrial facility to make a sculpture piece. It was an extraordinary experience. We saw 33 tons of steel heated to 3200 degrees used to fill molds, including our own for sculptures. Being in an industrial environment was really exhilarating,” said Lobdell, who chairs the Visual and Performing Art Department at Highlands.
He said incorporating wheels and axles into his sculpture was a new reference for him.
“All of my work references the changes in communication and technology by using the image of the binary code, the language of computers. Forms are made out of zeros and ones,” Lobdell said.
Lobdell said the new program that featured his “Blue Rail” sculpture emphasizes the connection between industry and art.
“It’s a way that industries can touch a cultural base by the industry opening their factories to the artists. Industry sees the value of art that connects them to communities in which they work,” Lobdell said.
Lobdell said the Six Mile Sculpture Works project shows his Highlands University students what opportunities might lie ahead in their artistic careers. The exhibition continues through 2019.
Lobdell’s sculpture will also be featured at the at the international Festival of High Temperatures June 21 – 23 in the heart of the medieval city of Wroclaw, Poland.
Lobdell is among the internationally acclaimed artists the Academy of Art and Design in Wroclaw invited to participate in the 12th jubilee of the festival organizers say celebrates hot art. He also participated in the festival in June 2017 and will lecture again at the event this year.
“What’s spectacular and unique about this festival is it’s a confluence of different art forms that all rely upon fire,” Lobdell said. “It features ceramics, glass and metal casting, collectively called pyrometric art because each uses high temperatures.”
Lobdell, a leader in the international iron art movement, said that fire is a primordial form of expression that drives people to participate in festivals like the one in Wroclaw.
His fire sculpture design is a 10-foot-high steel frame furnace that is fired by propane burners. The design also includes a circle of fired steel. The sculpture glows every color of the fire spectrum from deep orange to indigo.
“Onlookers can write a message and slip it into a small metal box on the frame, sending their thoughts and prayers into the cosmos,” Lobdell said.
Festival organizers write that Lobdell’s fire sculpture, lit after dark, will be one of the most spectacular attractions of the festival again this year.