Local artist Jeff Wise is taking three of his large-scale sculptures on a road trip.
The pieces, “Water Bug,” “Philomena Dates a Photon” and “Cryptic Voyage” will be part of a solo exhibition Wise will have at SPACE Gallery in Denver. The show will open April 23.
Before Wise takes the pieces down in the next few weeks, you can check them out as you’re out and about: “Water Bug” is at the Smiley Building; “Philomena” can be seen by those headed up Junction Street/County Road 204; and “Cryptic Voyage” can be found along the Animas River Trail behind the fire station.
“Philomena” is a new piece that hits close to home for Wise. Literally.
“I had put up this art on my property that overlooks the road as kind of an art gallery that I could share with the public – it was just sort of a fun thing to share with my neighbors, basically,” he said. “And it gave me another way, another public location to put my work out. So that has had a few different pieces on it, and that will be sort of a rotating display.”
When it comes to inspiration, Wise said it could come from anywhere: “It’s everything from the Conoco candy bar display where I just bought some peanut butter cups to the woven patterns of the Animas riverbed. Inspiration is all day, everywhere.
“Basically, I just am constantly feeding my curiosity, and so that’s really what it’s all about, it’s just kind of observing the world around me, and so my inspiration really comes from everything – there is no particular source, it’s mainly training my mind to ask questions and to observe,” he said.
What’s cool about Wise’s sculptures is that they are around for all to see: Along with the three headed up to Denver, you can check out his work at Durango Arts Center, on north Main Avenue – a sculpture that’s also a bench, and even across from Miller Middle School. That piece, “Rincon Ascending,” is made up of two large blue triangles, and was commissioned by Jim Philippon and Mark Williamson of Agave builders for the entrance to the new subdivision.
And the Smiley Building downtown.
“I have been working with Charles Shaw at the Smiley Building for a few years, and so it’s a really nice relationship in that I get to put my art out and lots of people get to see it,” Wise said. “And then one big benefit that I get from it is having the pieces staged in a really kind of impressive venue. So I really get good imagery from it.”
And, like just about every artist, Wise has seen both positive and negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – negative in the sense of lost sales, but positive effects of having a lot more time to dedicate to his work.
“My first big solo show was last February in the Littleton Museum in the metro Denver area, and it was very well-received and I had a couple of sculptures that we were negotiating the sale of, and negotiations were almost complete, and then when the pandemic hit, one of them was going to be for the entryway for a big apartment building in Denver, and the developer got cold feet because of COVID and backed out,” he said. “It really shut down sales and then my gallery in Denver shut down for several months, so that kind of pinched things off as well.
“The positive effect was that I had this huge time bubble, and basically I just made sculpture all summer and fall and subsequently, I have produced four major sculptures in the past six months. I’ve been doing a lot of welding,” he said laughing.