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Linda Howard's sculpture inherits many characteristics of a long modern art tradition of metal constructions, but in her hands the potentially cool, mechanical and intellectual nature of the work is transformed into energy and movement, with an emotional content approaching devoutness.

Her work exists in contradiction. While it is composed of rigidly straight lines, visually it suggests waves, folds, and cartwheels. While it is constructed of hard metal, it softly reflects light and gracefully envelops and denotes space. While it is painstakingly constructed weld by weld, it has a spontaneous, lively appearance independent of its facture.

These contradictions are not accidental. The artist says, "On philosophical and perceptual leve1s, I look for connections between opposites and distinctions between similarities."

In the late 1960's, the welded, constructed sculpture tradition begun thirty years earlier in America by Julio Gonzalez, and advanced in the 1950's by such major figures as David Smith and Richard Stankiewicz, under went notable changes. While some artists continued to explore the expressive possibilities of gestural, hand-made, found-object imagery, others introduced imagery of a more impersonal, industrial, machine-made quality.

     In the 1970's, the Minimalist philosophy -- reduction of the image and materials to the most basic form, often in repetition and wrung of any emotional undertones -- dominated sculpture. Some artists assumed the role of remote designer, removed from the act of fabrication of the finished product. Exquisitely made stainless steel boxes, lined up or stacked for cumulative effect; unadorned commercial steel plate laid in patterns; white-painted geometric constructions; and transparent glass partitions all came to exemplify the Minimalist esthetic.

     Linda Howard came of age as an artist in the formative years of Minimal art, and her earliest successful work is linked to that philosophy. However, she has always kept an element of a hands-on quality in her work, so that her sculpture, while minimal in its choice of materials, retains an emotional underpinning that minimal art eschewed. In fact, while her work is constructivist in nature, relying on principles of engineering and balance, she derives from these principles images that are engaging, spirited, and highly unique to her.

     The elements she uses are deceptively simple: polished, wheel-ground, or white-painted square aluminum tubing, cut, assembled, and welded into elaborate geometric forms. The straight, inflexible aluminum tubes, organized into certain configurations, simulate fanning, curving, billowing shapes that evoke images of wings, sails and other wind-filled forms. Wheel grinding the surface of the tubes by hand gives them a light-catching, sparkling surface that enlivens the sculptures and suggests further movement within the work.

     Howard has explored the seemingly limitless applications of a few basic forms that emerge from her arrangements of the tubular lines. Because of the inherent structural strength of her forms, she has been able to enlarge the size and scale of her work. When small, the sculptures work well as visual objects, or at large scale can environmentally engulf the viewer and evoke surprising empathy. Critic Donald Kuspit has written about Howard's work: "Looking modern, by reason of its industrial materials, and looking as though a mathematical game was its basis, yet having a peculiar aura of transcendence."

     Linda Howard says, "The archways are gateways to transitional spaces, moving one, step-by-step, from a personalized human scale to a larger space, and then on conceptually to the expanded universe beyond."

     In much of Howard's larger works, the architectural scale and the architectonic imagery can suggest cathedrals especially Gothic arches. Kuspit observed, "...Howard has succeeded, in modern terms, in realizing the old task of religious architecture: to create a clear order that emanates-spreads joy."

     The sculpture that Howard has developed for the specific environment of the Ham Museum Rotunda is approximately 16 feet high and occupies a floor area of about 14 feet square. Accompanying the central work are four small maquettes - studies for the finished piece - so viewers can observe the evolution of its design.

     The design involves mirror-image halves suggesting her "gateway to transitional space" leading into the depth of the work which changes to a more enclosed and protected "inner sanctum." As indicated by the title, the unfolding wing-like shapes and enclosing, spatial center of the work suggest a huge transparent blossom that invites one into the luminous interior.

     The reflection of natural light in the rotunda emanating from all the surfaces of the aluminum elements adds a mysterious sparkle that contributes the joy Kuspit cites. Challenged by the light and space in the museum rotunda, Howard has invented a new formal content in this work which suggests a direction toward more nature inspired subjects.

 

 
Linda Howard
330 60th Street West
Bradenton, Florida 34209
(941) 792-0797 phone
(941) 792-0073 fax
Email: LindaHoward309@aol.com

2002 Linda Howard - All Rights Reserved