Every fresh and shiny morning seems to bring yet another blast of bad news these days.
And frankly, it’s wearing on Eric McCue.
“The world is messed up at the moment,” says the Pueblo-based sculptor. “And it’s getting very divided. I do all these pieces that have layers upon layers. It’s getting so divided, but we’re all in this together. All of our parts make one.”
The theme of overcoming divisions spawned the idea for “From Many One,” the upcoming sculpture exhibit he’ll share with Colorado Springs sculptor Thom Phelps. It opens Friday at Art 111 Gallery with a free reception from 5-8 p.m. and runs through September. It’s part of First Friday Downtown. Some downtown, Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs galleries, retailers and nonprofits will be open for receptions from 5-8 p.m. Masks and physical distancing will be required, and the number of patrons in the space will be limited. Go online to downtowncs.com/event/firstfriday for more information.
McCue mostly makes large pieces of public art. He’s the guy behind the 18 giant green blades of grass that stood in Boulder Crescent Park as part of the 2015 Art on the Streets exhibit downtown. If you blinked, you missed it. Six weeks after it was installed, a fan purchased it and hightailed it out of town.
“I try to make really fun work that you don’t need a master’s degree in art history to understand,” McCue said. “Some of my work has deep meaning, but for most I caught ahold of some movement and I just went with it.”
The new show will feature mostly large pieces — at least half a dozen from McCue and seven or eight from Phelps — made from many smaller pieces, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Both artists work with steel, but Phelps produces patinas on his pieces, while McCue paints his with vibrant colors.
“It’s (steel) a wonderful medium because it’s very forgiving when you’re working with it,” Phelps says. “You heat it up and melt it and if you screw something up, you can cut that piece off and start over.”
Both men have been lifelong artists. For McCue, it was pretty much preordained, as both sides of his family are artists. He’s been working professionally since leaving art school in 2000. Phelps went a different route and spent much of his life in corporate America, where he worked in graphic design. But in 2006, as he was taking on a management role, his company had him create dream boards as part of his training. Phelps took one look at his finished dream board and had an epiphany.
“It just screamed at me you don’t want to be in corporate America anymore,” he says. “You want to quit and do art. I went home and told my wife and asked if can we figure this out.”
They did and now he works all day on his sculptures, many of which are commissioned. Last year, he won the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region Peak Arts Prize in the individual artist category for his “Farewell to Bees” sculpture.
“I don’t want my stuff to be doom and gloom,” Phelps said. “It’s easy for an artist to pick a theme and only work on that theme. I want people to be moved by my work, sometimes in the direction of seriousness or grief, but sometimes it’s silly and whimsical. I want to make work that makes people smile. I try to find that balance.”
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