Not so typical sidewalk art

BY ADDY FORTE | Evergreen fine arts reporter

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A little piece of Denver is currently hidden in the basement of the WSU Fine Arts Building.

JJ Harty, a WSU adjunct art professor, is rebuilding a section of crumbling street curb located in the Colorado city to frame his bronze installation artwork titled “Denver.”

Eventually, the bronze cast will be fitted into the negative space of the actual curb. Harty built the model curb to show his work at a sculpture exhibit in Hamilton, New Jersey, with 22 other winners of the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. Harty was chosen from 374 nominees from more than 150 art institutions in six countries.

“I’ve always been a hands-on person, I like to fix things and take things apart,” Harty said. “So being able to incorporate that and make art in the same way was something that kind of became an addiction.”

Chris Watts, who teaches drawing and painting at WSU, said Harty’s work was an interesting contrast of experimental guerrilla work and thoughtful quality craftsmanship.

 “He’s a very impressive artist and sculptor,” Watts said, “and a really nice quality human being.”

The International Sculpture Center evaluates nominees and grants the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. “Denver” will be on display October 2014 through March 2015 at the Grounds for Sculpture exhibit. His work will also be published in the organization’s website and Sculpture magazine, both of which have a global presence in the art world.

“Particularly at this stage of his career where he’s kind of breaking out on his own,” Watts said. “It’s fantastic he’s been noticed.”

Squeak Meisel, an assistant professor in sculpture and installation, nominated Harty for the competition. Meisel said the arts department at WSU is an interdisciplinary program and Harty’s success is due in part to Harty working together with the entire department.

“He’s very receptive and thoughtful and earnest,” Meisel said. “And the work that he ended up with at the end of his thesis to me feels very contemporary and felt like something that aligns itself nicely within what the context of what art is in a global way in 2014.”

The International Sculpture Center gives the award in hopes of continuing the creation and understanding of sculpture and its role in society. Harty said there is a lot of purposeful travel and thought that goes into his work.

“Discovery and serendipity are two things that go together for me,” Harty said. “And really interesting things can come out of it.”

Harty said his teachers throughout his education played a big role in his decision to become an artist and didn’t realize art was more than just drawing and painting until working on his undergraduate degree. He said he realizes a lot of people don’t look at sculpture as a legitimate profession.

“I guess I don’t look at it that way. I think it’s something that I love to do,” Harty said. “And even if I had to work at 7-Eleven, which hopefully that’s not going to happen, I would still be making my art.”