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Sculptor brings remarkable 18-piece show home to Georgia Southern

More than twenty years after graduating from Georgia Southern University, internationally-known sculptor Eric Strauss will exhibit Wild Ride: Artistic Lessons of Nature, the largest body of his work assembled for an exhibition, at his alma mater. A traveling exhibition of eighteen sculptures made from stainless steel, bronze and found objects will be shown both in the lobby of the University’s Performing Arts Center and at the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden from October to mid-January.

The public is invited to a reception for the artist on Friday evening, Oct. 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center. James Burns from the Booth Western Museum will introduce Strauss at 7:30 p.m. and then the artist will lead an ‘Artist’s Talk” walking tour of his exhibition.

A ‘Conversation with the Artist” will take place Saturday, Oct. 28, beginning at noon in the Georgia Southern Botanical Gardens during their ‘Farm and Forest Festival,” which is being held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. He will be available to speak with the public about the horses and other sculptures in the outdoor venue.

As a business major in the 1980s, Strauss took an elective art course and unexpectedly discovered his calling. Working in the sculpture studio with sculptor Pat Steadman, an art professor (now emeritus), further inspired him to change his major and begin his life’s work. Trained in both sculpture and ceramics at Georgia Southern, he also learned to cast bronze and carve marble during a Georgia Southern summer study abroad program in Cortona, Italy. After graduating, Strauss apprenticed with Atlanta sculptor Caroline Montague. Even though he had obtained a scholarship to attend Washington University in St. Louis for graduate school, Strauss preferred the apprenticeship. With Montague he learned the art of assemblage, grinding and welding metals and attaching found objects.

Of his former student, Steadman writes, ‘Eric is the most energetic and prolific sculptor I have ever known. Since graduating from Georgia Southern, Eric’s creative need has driven him to produce a rich variety of sculptural forms, which are spread all over the country. I am extremely proud of Eric’s success.”

Influences on Strauss’s work have come from living on a dairy farm, a blueberry farm, in a cypress swamp and managing a horse farm for ten years while establishing his art career. His herd of six stainless steel horses, which will be stationed in the Botanical Garden, titled Roughstock: Chick, Angel, Dot, Dixie, Lightning and Sun, is obviously influenced by this period. Strauss is also affected by his love of the American West.

After several trips to southwestern states, he was inspired to create works influenced by the people, places and animals of the West.

From his studio on a mountaintop in Ellijay, Ga., at the southern end of the Great Smoky Mountains, Strauss combines industrial techniques with materials that inspire a connection to the earth. His outdoor pieces reflect light through textures and surfaces of twisted, turned and curved metals. Sculptures titled Southern Sunrise, Winds of Change, and Birds’ World evoke the evolving world of nature.

The idea for a large traveling exhibition was conceived when James Burns, Director of Curatorial Services at the Booth Western Museum in Cartersville, Ga., visited Strauss at his home in Ellijay in 2005. Because of his fascination with the West, Strauss and the Booth Western Museum, which exhibits contemporary Western artwork, connected. The current exhibition was actually titled Wild Ride in reference to the journey of sculptor and curator as they conceived and executed the show. Opening first in April 2006 at the Booth Western Museum, then at Albany Museum of Art in Albany, Ga., it arrived at Georgia Southern in mid October. After leaving Georgia Southern in early 2007 it will travel to the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Ga.

Strauss exhibits at Fay Gold Gallery and Lowe Gallery in Atlanta and has works in collections of museums, corporations and art lovers, including Sir Elton John. He is well known for his images of horses and other animals, celestial bodies and spiritual assemblages. Sculptures on view at the Performing Arts Center will include tabletop sunbursts, contemporary furniture and a modern interpretation of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As one views his work, Strauss says, ‘I usually give the viewers enough realism to know where my starting point was and enough distortion to keep them interested in my piece.”

‘We are so proud to present this unique and intriguing exhibition of sculpture by such a distinguished alumnus,” said Patricia Carter, Chair of the Betty Foy Sanders Art Department at Georgia Southern. ‘We take great pride he takes in the education he received at Georgia Southern. Students and faculty are elated that he will be spending time on campus with art students currently enrolled in our sculpture program.”

Wild Ride: Artistic Lessons of Nature is sponsored at Georgia Southern by the Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art Gallery Programming, which is supported by Student Activities Fees. Organized as a traveling exhibition by The Booth Western Museum in Cartersville, Ga., the exhibition is also generously supported by the Georgia Southern Performing Arts Center and the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden.

For more information, contact the Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art at 912-871-1712.

All events are free and open to the public. The Performing Arts Center hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Botanical Garden gates are open daily from 9 a.m. to dusk.

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