by Melanie Zuercher
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Stop by the Regier Gallery in Bethel College’s Luyken Fine Arts Center these days, and you’ll think there’s an installation in process.
Actually, the process is the installation.
Sculptor Christopher Gulick, Wichita, has some of his work on display there, but he is also the artist-in-residence, working in the gallery from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays through Nov. 20.
Gulick has set up a model version of his studio, including a workbench with supplies such as metal rods, wire and sheet metal, a computer for internet access and music via Spotify, and some décor items from the real thing.
The exhibit is called “In the Studio LIVE, Part 2,” because although a lot of what Gulick does is interactive, this is only the second time he has set up in a gallery in this way (the first was in 2013 at Newman University’s Steckline Gallery in Wichita).
“I like educational gigs,” he says. “I like visiting with everybody, from every perspective. I have done a lot of work in grade schools, doing demonstrations, but only one other time in a gallery” where he stays put for an extended period.
Gulick creates what’s called “kinetic sculpture,” in which “the design goal is building the piece to appear kinetic to the eye, even when the work is static.”
His works are typically suspended, as mobiles, but may be wall mounted or free standing. There are examples of all three in the current Regier Gallery exhibit, as well as in the Carriage Factory Gallery in downtown Newton where Gulick’s show “In the Middle of Everywhere” remains through the end of this month.
“I work on site-specific commissions as well as my own studio projects,” he says. “Sizes vary from one foot in diameter – airspace displacement – to 15 feet or more for a single piece.
“Materials range from aluminum rod to stainless steel or alloy types of rod for the ‘armatures.’ Materials for ‘ballast,’ or positive space, vary from sheet metal to acrylic to found material objects.” (For example, one piece in the Regier Gallery employs old hotel keycards.)
The work Gulick is doing in his three weeks in residence at Bethel will depend in large part on gallery visitors.
He’s happy to visit with anyone and everyone. When visitors are willing, he wants them to look at his sketchbooks – actually copies of Interior Design magazine – to find something they like.
“I’m breaking my mother’s rule, ‘Don’t draw in your books,’” he notes. “I’m doodling in perfectly good magazines.”
All through the magazines, when Gulick finds a room or setting where he thinks one of his sculptures could work, he sketches it in.
“I want people to go through and when they see something they like, to tag it. These are my sketchbooks” that he’ll work from, through Nov. 20, to turn some of the sketches into sculptures.
On Nov. 20, the date of Gulick’s artist reception, there will be a sealed-bid silent auction to give people the chance to buy work they might have helped to create or that they especially like.
Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Regier Gallery. The silent auction at the Steckline Gallery raised around $2,000, Gulick says.
Although the auction doesn’t make money for him, this kind of activity benefits his work, he says.
“I do a lot of commissions. [Through the residency], I get to interact with people’s opinions and thoughts. When they pick something, I’m committed to that relationship, whether I happen to like [the idea] or not.
“I learn something about myself in the process. Sculptors are process junkies.”
Though Gulick’s last day in the gallery is Nov. 20, the sculptures will be on display through Dec. 5.
The reception will be Nov. 20 from 6-8 p.m. in the gallery area in Luyken Fine Arts Center.
Regier Gallery hours are Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays 2-4 p.m. The gallery will be closed for Thanksgiving break, Nov. 26-30. Admission is free.
Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.