By Charity Heller
Photos courtesy of the artist
Above: Red Right Hand
Juxtapoz calls itself new brow, the Portland Art Museum unequivocally displays highbrow—and then there’s our inexplicable civic love of the lowbrow aesthetic. AFRU Gallery, then, can only be described as uni-brow. It’s the perfect place for the expansive, transcendent, welded-steel sculptures of Scott Foster.
On display in AFRU Gallery, Foster’s Modern Totems runs June 6 to 29. The gallery’s cavernous space is a fitting backdrop for Foster’s work. Many of his steel figures have finely arched eyebrows, opaque 100-yard stares, lips open to speak. With chiaroscuro lighting—all dark recesses, high ceilings, and long shadows—the work is haunting.
Daughter of Alderon is particularly striking—it’s a welded sculpture based on Princess Lea, created for a Star Wars-themed show that opened shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2011. “All this was going through my head, all that shock. I wasn’t trying to portray Carrie Fisher, but the more universal daughter of a planet that’s been totally destroyed.” The eyes of the piece, and others, are hollow. Blank, black reflections. “I’ve always been drawn to the Classical Greek approach, where the eyes are blank, or replaced with glass that is now gone. It’s less specific…People do the filling-in.”
At the time he was creating the sculptures that would comprise Modern Totems, Foster intended for each to have its own purpose, though not necessarily a particular theme. “It seemed like everything I made came out looking like an archetype character,” he says. “A little bit of the mythical, the spiritual. Something that conveyed universality.”
Sculpture has been Foster’s expression of choice for years—stone, resins, bronze. He’s also a character sculptor for a stop-animation studio, and sculpted characters for the stop motion movies Coraline and The Boxtrolls. Foster also owns and curates the small, delightful Good:a gallery on North Mississippi Avenue. He began working with steel just four years ago, and with that, Foster says, he’s finally found his medium. Unlike bronze casting, which he considers more industry than art, metal sculpture can’t be reproduced. Each piece is utterly unique, from the hands of the artist.
AFRU Gallery owner Jonas Nash (and “uni-brow” moniker coiner) first encountered Foster’s work on a trip through Portland around 1996. “I really loved his work,” Nash says. “It was the only artwork I really connected with, coming through town, before I knew who he was.” Nash curates artists, not artwork. When he finds an artist whose work appeals to him, and whom might have a difficult time selling in more commercial galleries in the Pearl District, he approaches artists and gives them license to choose the work they want to show on his walls. Scott Foster has chosen his pieces to share—any interpretations of these choices thereafter are ours.
See Modern Totems, June 6 – 29, at AFRU Gallery, located at 534 SE Oak Street.