It’s a momentous occasion when an artist installs a piece at the Michigan Legacy Art Park, not only for the artist, but also for those fortunate enough to experience the installations. On a cool, sunny morning in late May, artist Joshua Ray Smith arrived from Nebraska to place two steel sculptures at the entry of the art park. On exhibit through spring of 2016, Smith’s Cloud: Dehydrated Improvisation, and Time Collector for a Michigan Forest display a grace and fluidity that belie their steel nature.
Smith’s pieces are the first of eight new installations that will be in place by mid-June and on exhibit at the Art Park for two years. Executive Director Renee Hintz said the Collection Committee was unanimous in their decision to select Joshua Ray Smith’s art and that his work fits in with the park’s mission.
Smith’s Time Collector for a Michigan Forest was created specifically for Michigan Legacy Art Park and is a pristine piece, not yet oxidized by the environment. Smith explains the philosophy of his “time and place collectors,” on his website, joshuaraysmith.com:
“The oxidation of iron, or rusting, is a natural process of material with environment. In the rusting of steel, the elements and time of that specific atmosphere are recorded. The rust in its pattern, color, and texture, becomes a record of the weather and time that has passed specific to location.” Patrons to the Art Park will witness the unique and intended evolution of a sculpture, and how nature contributes to and creates art all its own.
Upon completion of the installations, Smith took some time to speak to a group of Suttons Bay High School art students who were visiting the park. Speaking at the amphitheater, he shared his background, connections to Michigan (Cranbrook alumni and U of M instructor) and answered questions. Friendly and accessible, he shared his enthusiasm for the happy coincidence of engaging with the students while at the park, saying, “Art’s purpose is dialogue.”
Describing how his structural steel contrasts and highlights nature, he hopes people will, “see nature in a different way, however slight. That brings awareness.” He likes to “frame” nature with his pieces and enjoys, “points of interaction and how things come together.”
How it all comes together, particularly the weathering process on Time Collector for a Michigan Forest, is yet to be determined due to the unique effect of environment on art. Looking at Cloud: Dehydrated Improvisation, one can appreciate the russet tones and striations that enrich Smith’s work, as well as envision the future of Time Collector. Northern Michigan being host to all four seasons, they will surely bless Smith’s original work with a special, finishing touch.