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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Broken Sleep

“Broken Sleep,” a 3-D installation by UMB Art professor Kitty Wales is on display at the Boston Sculptor’s gallery in the South End. According to Wales’ artist statement, “There are many ways to break a restful sleep; the clap of thunder, a shattering phone call, disturbing dreams. The intent with this installation is to address what might be manifested from a broken sleep.”

In this case, her show features a life-size Longhorn Cow with horns shooting out of its head at a seven-foot span. The Longhorn is unconventionally placed in the center of a quiet bedroom and the objects that compose the installation are fabricated out of linear steel.

Wales uses steel and other non-traditional materials to create her art. Wales explains her use of steel, “[Steel gives her] freedom to work fast and it is versatile enough to work with non-traditional material. It is very much like drawing… If you make a mistake it is erasable.”

With a background in figurative sculpture, Wales’ artwork is reflective of the animal world. Her fascination with animals emerged from her interest in comparative anatomy between humans and animals. She studies animals that were once domesticated but then became feral, such as dogs, swine pigs, and goats.

For Wales, sculpting an animal that is anatomically correct involves intensive research, photography, and drawing of that particular animal. She finds that actually being present in the animal’s natural habitat to document their day-to-day activities gives her much more to work with.

As a result, Wales has traveled from Scotland to study wild goats, and even dived underwater in the Bahamas to observe sharks. Innovatively, she found a way to sketch the shark underwater using a plastic slate, but also dabbled in some underwater photography.

Wales began her research for the “Broken Sleep” project in 2002, where she attended two Longhorn ranches in eastern Texas: The Flying D Ranch in Magnolia and The Rolling Hills Ranch in Huntsville. In Fort Worth, Texas, she attended the 2002 Horn Showcase and Sale. Here, she photographed a live auction of prizewinning Longhorns.

She claims to have been amazed by “the incredible horn that spirals out of their skull.” According to her artist statement, “My choice of the Longhorn heifer as the subject for Broken Sleep was not only its formidable body size but also the distinctive way the horns twist to such great lengths and proportion from the skulls of females.””Broken Sleep” is a departure from her other shows, which were “very jumbled and chaotic.” She would try to fill up gallery space with multiple animals, whereas “Broken Sleep” is very sparse-the only animal present is a solitary heifer.

The biggest bedroom piece however, is a single bed with a steel pillow. The mattress is slightly sunken in the middle, simulating the absence of a sleeper. “In this unlikely context the Longhorn and the furniture co-exist in a moment in time, an impossible irretrievable break in a tranquil reality,” states the press release for “Broken Sleep.”

Wales commented about the unusual context of her show, “It is about being woken and what can manifest from a broken dream.” Wales further explains in her artist statement, “An unexpected presence has entered the bedroom. Something interrupted the sleeper and in that moment reality changed. Awakened, the occupant vacated the room and will return to find it impossibly altered.”

Kitty Wales is a graduate of Boston University and the University of Arizona. She teaches drawing at UMB and has been a faculty member for over two years. Wales previously taught welding at BU. “There is something satisfying about welding. It allows me to put things together easier. It’s not like glue-you can erase and you can add,” says Wales.

The sculpting process of the Longhorn required much drawing as well as trial and error. By using steel to create the massive creature, she was able to detach and reattach pieces of the artwork without a problem.

Wales’s installation ran through August 31 through September 25. She is involved with a forthcoming group show entitled “Artists Inspired by the Natural World.” The show will be held at the Peabody Essex Museum (TBA).

Boston Sculptors Gallery hosts two concurrent solo shows every month presenting the works of its 28 members through a two-year cycle including a group show featuring all of the members for the winter holidays.

Nick Capasso, associate curator of the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park says, “The Boston Sculptors Gallery, one of the few cooperative sculpture galleries in the country, is among the most stimulating venues for three-dimensional contemporary art in the Northeast.”

It is Boston’s premier venue for sculpture, featuring exciting and varied contemporary work by Boston-area artists. The gallery is located on 486 Harrison Avenue in Boston. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Visit the website at www.bostonsculptors.com for more information.