Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Stirner's sculpture explores both sensuality and morbidity

Karl Stirner was discovered by students in Pennsylvania over 30 years ago, when he was designing metal jewelry and furniture. Ripped from his small studio by these inquisitive young minds, Stirner began to teach at the Tyler School of Art. This fostered his interest in sculpture and he went on to collect and create a large body of art, continuing to teach at schools like Moore and Swarthmore. Stirner's current exhibition, entitled "Feeling Lucky," is on display in the Remis Sculpture Court.

Over the course of his life, Stirner has taken an interest in a variety of art, and has developed a large collection of African and Pre-Columbian pieces. While he does not directly reference this art in his own, it has had an unconscious effect on him and his artwork. "A piece of art doesn't have external dictates, it's all from within," said Stirner.

Often labeled a minimalist, Stirner described his sculpting process as "trying to do what is absolutely essential to get to my ends." Stirner's work is primarily concerned with the formal elements involved in the sculpture.

Stirner has worked with iron for much of his life, and has recently begun to incorporate photographs into his sculpture, as is evident in this exhibition.

"Barbara's room," a piece Stirner created four years ago, is an iron encasing with an enlarged photograph inside. To view the photograph, visitors must peer into the sculpture from above. The photograph is of a young and beautiful bride. Stirner's pieces often deal with this young woman, his former wife, who committed suicide not long after they were married. "It's been many years, and it never goes away," Stirner said of the piece.

Because of the beauty and nostalgia that is called to mind by the image, there is an inherent sweetness to the piece. However, at the same time, "Barbara's room" evokes a sense of death, as it resembles both a shrine and a coffin. The contrast between the well-defined lines and edges of a piece of metal, and the visual complexity of a photograph is quite striking. The duality experienced in viewing this piece is a common characteristic of much of Stirner's work.

"Fleisch," is a two-part sculpture that consists of two curved iron pieces atop tables that are equal in height. There are small ridges on the sculptures, and the overall effect is both of sensuality and morbidity. This is captured in the title, which stands for the German word for both "flesh" and "meat."

In "Barbara 1," a 55-gallon drum is compressed to simulate the shape of a brain A single bolt is placed within, evoking the nature of Stirner's wife's death. This part of the sculpture sits on a metal I-beam. "Barbara 2" recalls the image of a Renaissance-style grave. In this piece, a figure made of a compacted steel pipe in the shape of a torso lies on top of a flat iron surface, mimicing the recumebent figures often found on Renaissance tombs.

The materials that Stirner uses come from many different sources. He and his assistant Carl Disastio have found metal in places like railroad tracks and scrap-yards. The older pieces of metal that they discover will often bring something unique to the art, whether it is a rusted surface or a shade of paint that is deliberately left untouched in the metal-working process and adds a depth to a final piece

This display is Stirner's first solo exhibition in New England.