Doster selected featured sculptor

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By The Staff

The University of South Carolina Upstate has selected Lancaster resident Bob Doster, an internationally acclaimed artist, as the featured sculptor for the 2008-09 season. His unique style of metal design ranges from the whimsical feel of free-floating steel in multi-colored tables and accent pieces to the distinction of monumental sculpture.

The Doster exhibition officially begins in April, where six pieces of his work will be showcased on the campus. An artist lecture and reception will be held in the fall.

Many of Doster's works are abstractions similar to the sculpture permanently installed on campus.

One work in particular is a narrative work that uses the iconic symbol of a cross. The form is covered in narrative information and imagery that is related to the history of abuse and misuse of such iconic symbols. The imagery includes elements related to power, religion, politics, race and ethnicity. These subjects generate passionate discussion.

"This particular piece has generated much discussion among the university community," said Jane Nodine, professor of art and director of the University Gallery at USC Upstate. "This is exactly the function of many of the exhibitions and works of art we present and display for pedagogical purposes."

??Henry Fagen, an adjunct instructor of art at USC Upstate, suggests that the sculpture exemplifies and continues the much-referenced Christian theme of redemption, a hallmark of Western art for centuries, and is very present in American and European art today. He cites other examples of this theme in the "Last Judgement" imagery of the entry portals of Romanesque cathedrals, the large altar pieces of the Pre-Renaissance, Michaelangelo's "Last Judgement" in the Sistine Chapel, the Isenheim Altarpiece of Gruenwald, Albrect Durer's woodblock print of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights - Hell," Caravaggio's dark, brooding paintings, Rodin[s "Gates of Hell," and frescos by Diego Rivera.?

?"Doster's work is intentionally crudely crafted (made of stainless steel) but challenges us and provides opportunities for educational discussions relating to an artist's rights and ability to engage the viewing public," said Fagen. "The issues covered in discussion can be personal and aesthetic, or can cover social, religious, emotional, national, regional and general historical themes. Lastly, art illuminates and provides enrichment opportunities for the community and individuals to learn how to live better and more fulfilling lives within a global society."

??Other works of Doster's in the exhibition include a portal piece that resembles an inverted sun and might be interpreted as a pagan symbol, abstract fabricated sculptures in stainless, and corten steel with oxidized patinas and brushed surfaces.??Nodine has encouraged students to view the sculptures and have discussions relating to such topics as censorship, freedom of expression, the definition and purpose of art, and how the media influences our interpretation of art.

"Art is important because it challenges our ideas and emotions, it evokes certain responses within us and it has the power to bring about change," said Mallory Long, a senior majoring in art education from Wellford. "Doster's work is a reminder of the struggles of our past. If we forget the mistakes of our past, we repeat them."

Nodine said she is excited to see students so passionate in their discussions of the new sculpture installation on campus, both pro and con, which led to issues that directly affect them as students and citizens of the community.

"Just this week my printing class had a stimulating discussion about their rights to access information, issues of censorship, freedom of expression, applying critical thinking skill, and getting an education that prepares them for a global society," Nodine said.

On Feb. 28, Doster spoke to a group of about 30 students who asked questions about his techniques and what messages he hoped to convey with his artwork, especially the cross.

"I don't have a particular message to send but I want you to discuss the piece and what it could mean," Doster said. "This sculpture is paving the way for dialogue that may be uncomfortable for you but you are talking and that's good. You all have valid opinions. The fact that students are discussing their beliefs and opinions is a good thing. Perhaps it will help you understand each other better. You may even be able to solve some of the world's problems."

Dr. Marsha Dowell, interim executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, said universities are safe havens for students, staff and faculty to explore and discuss topics that may be controversial or topics that challenge our individual beliefs and values.

"Seeing the world from the vantage of others either through art, speech, drama, etc. provides a forum for thoughtful reflection and active and perhaps even lively communication with others," Dowell said.

Doster received a bachelor's of fine arts from the University of South Carolina and a master's of fine arts from Clemson University. He has exhibited his work in New York City, Rome and Venice. Bob Doster's Backstreet Studio is located at 217 E. Gay St. For more information, call the studio at 285-9190.