After winning prestigious award, Eureka Sculptor, Bob Emser, free to pursue his dreams

By Dan Craft  | dcraft@pantagraph.com

Photoshopped image of proposed "Winged Project" by Bob Emser

EUREKA — Beauty, as we know, is measured in the beholder’s eye.

The eye of Eureka artist Bob Emser has long beheld beauty in the sleek contours of airplane wings.

He describes that allure as “inherent,” regardless of size or scale or position.

A detached wing is no less appealing to him than one firmly in place; an unfinished wing is no less aesthetic than one with its skin on.

This sense of beauty was nurtured as a young boy growing up the son of a mechanical engineer in East Peoria.

Together, father and son would assemble model airplanes, usually made of balsa wood.

“They were probably my first sculptural experiences,” says the internationally exhibited artist and winner of one of the art world’s prestigious honors, the 2010 Pollock-Krasner Award.

“What I really liked about them,” Emser says, “was the sculptural quality of the flat shapes coming together and creating an organic, sensuous form.”

True confessions: “I never completely finished most of the models — just the wings.”

In fact, the framework, or skeleton, of the wing was the true allure, says Emser, more than 40 years past his 10-year-old self.

That probably explains the future architecture student’s added fascination with the unadorned frameworks of subdivision houses under construction, circa the ’60s.

“There is a beauty, there, too.”

Emser’s studio and the grounds surrounding it off the Adams Road blacktop in Eureka are subtle echoes of those early fascinations.

Besides the studio with its 20-foot ceiling, there’s the nearby retirement home he designed for his parents — father Don, now deceased, and mother Jean, who still calls the striking edifice home.

It was created out of an existing uninhabitable space in 2003, and features an exterior sided with stainless steel and squares of cement board — all the better to peacefully co-exist with the array of large-scale Emser sculptures redefining the otherwise typical tract of suburban neighborhood.

Now, courtesy the freedom the monetarily substantial Pollock-Krasner Award has granted, Emser’s imagination is taking wing higher and ever higher, toward a potentially unprecedented scale of public-space creativity.

Titled “Winged Project,” it will ultimately manifest itself, if all goes according to plan, on the sides of a New York City skyscraper or two.

It presently exists in nascent form, on the concrete floor of his studio: the skeletons of airplane wings, created out of wood and serving as the shapes of bigger things to come.

It’s a frankly arresting image Emser has foreshadowed in several Photoshopped images that have fooled more than one observer into thinking the project is finished and in place.

The conjunction of skyscraper and wings would, as he demands of any of his work, “redefine the space.”

He’s fully aware of the implications inherent in the redefinition: “So you may be thinking about the tragedy that occurred in September 2001 and, indeed, I can’t deny that it is a little bit about that.”

He adds, “There’s the idea that you shouldn’t connect these together because of this terrible thing.” But Emser views the connection chiefly in terms of “rejuvenation and innovation –redefining the event in a positive way.”

So instead of the specter of holocaust, he sees the work as a symbol of America and its land of “innovative thinkers.”

He says, “Part of our innovation is because of our freedom and our freedom to think in whatever way we want. A tragedy like 9/11 is something to try to take those freedoms away from us.”

Skyscrapers and airplanes were invented in America; by marrying the two architectural elements together, “they will give us a new awareness of what these spaces and objects are about.”

Emser will test-fly the project on a smaller scale in Chicago, where he is president of Chicago Sculpture International and served as executive director of Pier Walk, the city’s international sculptural exhibition.

He is close to achieving the funding necessary to begin that phase of the project.

In New York, he wants the project to be “high enough on a building so that the open sky can be seen through the framework” (he’s looking at a mid-sized building facing west in Chelsea; Lower Manhattan locations are less practical, he says).

Needless to say, a costly level of engineering will be entailed, along with the cooperation of building owners and other red tape.

For an artist who had taught most of his adult life and didn’t begin his sculpture career in earnest until he was 40, Emser agrees his international success and renown has been gratifying.

The Pollock-Krasner Award, which he ranks at the same level as a Guggenheim Fellowship, is now allowing him to embark on projects that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

And he’s having the time of his life launching these flights of meaningful fancy.

“Someone once said that if you can find what you most enjoyed doing as a child of 8 or 10, and then figure out how to make that you’re life’s work, you’ll be a happy person.”

Bob Emser — model airplane builder at 8; something still oddly close to that at 56 — has not violated that maxim.

Read orginal post at Bloomington Pantagraph.com

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This entry was posted in Art, Installations, Presentations, Public Sculpture, sculpture, Sculpture Exhibitions. Bookmark the permalink.

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