A one-ton bison sculpture, part of a commission awarded to Brevard-area sculptor J. Aaron Alderman, will be on display at The Haen Gallery in the Brevard Lumberyard Arts District beginning Friday, July 28. A reception will be held at The Haen Gallery on July 28 from 5:00 to 8:00pm during gallery walk and the sculpture will be available for viewing through August 6.
This impressive piece is part of an installation that Alderman will be delivering in August to the city of Marion, Iowa, to be placed in Lowe Park. The 6-1/2 foot tall, 9 foot long bison will lead a series of four figures aross the plains, representing a part of Iowa’s history and also relevant to present day issues. Iconic to American praries, the expansion of the railroad had a great affect on the bison, cutting across grazing lands and bringing people west to hunt and settle on the land. As a tribute to that history, Alderman created the bison from round stock steel and salvaged railroad materials.
Four figures follow the bison, the first represents a farmer shouldering simple tools. The second figure is that of a settler carrying a basket full of corn, a crop synonymous with Iowa. The third is a Native American carrying a medicine wheel and the final figure represents time itself. Alderman sculpted the pieces to progressively become less and less dense so that by the fourth figure, they seem to fade out; disappearing into the horizon.
Through a highly physical process, Alderman worked to push technique, using the repetition of line to create structure and form. In all of his work, Alderman plays with that repetition with line variances and pattern creations. With the bison that line and pattern variation came into play with a greater diversity in round stock steel size and internal layering. With the weight of the railroad material, and a true bison having relatively small, skinny legs, he needed to make sure the sculpture could hold its own weight while capturing the impressive mass of the bison. Alderman’s solution was to create the legs of the sculpture as essentially solid and then branch out to form the large, hollow form of the body. With two-thirds of the sculpture’s weight from the shoulder to neck, the final piece weighs in just under a ton. Structural concerns addressed, it was also important for Alderman to meet the challenge of capturing the spirit of the animal, keeping it inline with what the selection committee for the project wanted, but also making something unique, stylized, and expressive.
The four figures were also challenging in that the concept was for them to fade in appearance. Each figure becoming less and less descriptive and dense. Using fewer lines to depict the human form but still enough lines so that the sculptures would hold up over time and to potential vandalism was a challenge.
After nearly four months of construction, it is clear when viewing the final sculptures that Alderman met the challenges put before him, creating something truly captivating and incredibly impressive. The massive bison that will be on display at The Haen Gallery was created from 890 rail spikes and 298 rail anchors, weighing in at nearly 2,000 pounds.
A native of Brevard, Alderman studied at Brevard College, continuing his studies after graduation by working with local sculptor Tim Murray and coppersmith J. T. Copper. Alderman has been awarded public art commissions locally with numerous pieces in the Brevard Sculpture Project, regionally in locations like Knoxville, Tennessee, and as far as Romania. Alderman has displayed work throughout the Southeast in select galleries and juried public sculpture exhibitions.
To learn more about Alderman and see his available work, please click here.