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Vegetables, butterflies and art fill Clay Center sculpture garden

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Art lovers can wander through vegetables and butterflies to view sculptures around the Clay Center campus. That's because the Susan Runyan Maier Sculpture Garden is a true growing spot -- with sculpture surrounded by butterbeans and butterfly bushes.

The focal point of the "official" outdoor garden, at the back side of the Clay Center, near the corner of Lee and Brooks streets, is "LABAC," a welded steel piece by artist Arthur Gibbons. The work was originally installed on the front lawn of the Sunrise Museum.

This 9-foot-tall, 1,200-pound outdoor sculpture is composed of seven interlocking steel pieces and was purchased by the Collectors Club in 1988. The title of the sculpture is "cabal" spelled backward. A cabal is a small group of individuals involved in a secret plot.

"LABAC" combines ideas from Gibbons' earlier sculptures in addition to his state of mind while he created this particular piece. When asked to comment about how he creates one of his sculptures, Gibbons said, "A sculptor must be many things: a diplomat, salesman, machinery mover, welder and must know a lot about construction."

Gibbons realizes that each person likes or dislikes an artwork for various reasons. Expectations and life experiences influence how a person responds to a sculpture.

On the Clay Center website, Gibbons said, "To find someone who loves sculpture is rare. It's not architecture. It's not utilitarian. It's there for other reasons. Someone once said a sculpture is what you catch your pants on while you're busy looking at a painting."

Other outdoor sculptures on the Clay property include "Hallelujah" by Albert Paley, made of Cor-Ten (weathering) steel, stainless steel and bronze. Located in the plaza circle in front of the building, it stands 64 feet tall with a diameter of 40 feet.

Artist Harry Marinsky's "Festival delle Arti" ("Festival of the Performing Arts") is located in front of the building at the corner of Lee Street and Leon Sullivan Way. The bronze sculpture has six figures dressed in costumes and parading around a central bronze tree.

The Susan Runyan Maier Sculpture Garden is open to the public during regular gallery hours. The space is popular for wedding rehearsal dinners and other events and is available for rent.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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