It won’t be long before Alamar comes alive with captivating public art, designed by Arizona’s most creative minds to connect neighbors, inspire learning and enrich the lives of those who call this place home. From dynamic sculptures and pavement art to interactive works that double as play spaces, our Public Art Program will become a one-of-a-kind attraction in its own right. Though we’re still weeks away from unveiling the art to the community, we do have the next best thing.
Meet Neil Borowicz, a former exhibition designer for the Scottsale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). Neil has partnered with us for this unprecedented achievement, and he has graciously taken the time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us for a quick chat about the unique brand of art he brings to Alamar.
Here’s a closer look:
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and the type of art you create.
I am someone who has been drawing and sculpting since a very early age. I left my small hometown in Pennsylvania to go to art school, and I eventually settled in Arizona, working around art and museums all of my adult life. I try to make work that I could live with, and see new things in, every day.
You often use wax and bronze to create your sculptures. Why are you drawn to these materials?
Most of my work is executed in clay, and then cast in plaster. Unless they are commissions, they rarely make it to bronze because of the expense. I work in clay because it is most like drawing, in three dimensions no less. One can add and subtract, push the material around – and there’s nothing between your fingertips and the surface you are modeling.
Can you tell us about a piece of art on display locally that you particularly enjoyed creating?
A few years ago my wife told me that Charlie Levy, who is the owner of The Van Buren music venue in Phoenix, was looking for someone to make a life-sized bust of former U.S. President Martin van Buren to become the venue’s mascot. Having done a fair amount of portrait sculpture, I reached out and he commissioned me to do it. They placed him near the main entrance indoors. Online, Martin lives mostly through The Van Buren’s Instagram account. However, performers and concert goers rub his head and take pictures with him.
What are you creating for Alamar’s Public Art Program?
A bronze sculpture called Luna. The piece consists of a life-size figure of a young girl, who is a personification of the full moon, and the figure of a barn owl that is her companion. The two figures, which will be light in color, will be placed on a dark, slightly elevated circular base. The figures will be placed in the east end of their park, facing west. The full moon will rise on either side of the sculpture, depending on the time of year.
What was your inspiration for the Alamar sculptures?
When we (the group of artists) decided on the general theme tying the park sculptures together, I recalled an old sculpture of mine I had called Luna, and the thought came to me of making a figure that personified the moon somehow. The figure of the owl came to me during discussions with the other artists, and it seemed to add a dimension to her character.
Tell us about the technique and what went into creating this sculpture? How long did it take? How many steps were involved?
After creating a small maquette to capture the basic gesture, I had to fabricate an armature out of wood and steel rod that would support the clay. The figure was then roughed out in clay, and proportions arrived at by trial and error. Without the benefit of a model (because of the pandemic), I had to utilize fragments of old sculptures and the occasional photograph for reference, and my wife helped model the drapery. The water-based clay had to be sprayed regularly to keep it from drying and cracking; and it had to be covered when I wasn’t working on it. After I finished the owl, I began major work on the figure of the girl at the end of April and finished in July. Once each sculpture was done, I took it to the foundry to begin mold making and casting.
What do you want people to think or feel when they see this piece of art at Alamar?
I think the theme was meant to offer people ways of experiencing and thinking about their connections to the natural world through our work. Watching the moon is something that spans time and culture. I hope viewers identify with the figure and think of how it embodies what the moon means and has meant to people who have always had a relationship with it.
I am glad I was encouraged to bring the piece closer to viewers, and it has occurred to me that people who can’t see can touch the piece, particularly the owl.