Art can be intimidating. New artists may be intimidated by skill and experience, or even by artistic mediums. Audiences may be intimidated by the works themselves, or the concepts they represent. The cascading influences of a single artist can affect generations in untold ways. A new exhibit at the Delaware Museum of Art, steel in fluxOpens June 25thThe tenth It runs until September 11thThe tenth Celebrates the work and impact of Stan Smöckler. His dynamic steel sculptures and work educating future artists created a legacy that would spread across the art world.
Pieces included in steel in flux Smokler’s career spans decades, from works created in New York City in the 1970s through the 1990s, to pieces created at the Marshall Bridge Studio in Kennett Square during the past 25 years. “For me, the extent of the work reflects his extensive growth as an artist and the influence of his surroundings,” says Madeline Lewis, Smokler’s thirty-five-year-old wife. “Previous work in New York City tends to reflect a more urban architectural visual world; work over the past twenty-five years, created in his country studio on Red Clay Creek, tends to be more inspired by nature and open space.”
This retrospective gives voice to Smokler’s work from a unique perspective. Seven years ago, Smokeler found he was having a hard time “finding the words to express myself,” as he put it at the time. Through neuropsychological tests, he was found to have cognitive impairment, and after tracking his progress, he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, FTD. A progressive and fatal disease, with a range of effects, including aphasia, loss of physical energy, strength, balance, and diminished understanding and memory. Smokler continued to work, teach, and sculpt his beautiful work after the diagnosis, until earlier this year.
steel in flux Part of the Distinguished Artist Series at the Delaware Museum of Art. DAM, and specifically Margaret Winslow, Senior Curator and Responsible for Contemporary Art, wanted to celebrate Smokler’s career and work with this gallery. Lewis worked with Winslow and others to create this exhibition: “I helped the Delaware Museum of Art team by helping represent Stan’s voice and providing materials and information.”
Lele Galer, a local artist who was a former student of Smokler’s, is also involved by helping to organize a workshop at Marshall Bridge Studio along with the gallery. She has a great perspective on the show: “For the first time, we can see Stan’s work from the beginning, initially being inspired by the famous steel sculptors with whom he worked, to develop his own style.” Smokler pieces vary in size, technique, and style. Galer notes, “It has large, bold steel statements that match its outdoor environment, as well as more intimate tabletop sculptures.”
Smokler’s works may seem otherworldly, but careful eyes can find familiar shapes and forms. “Many of his works involve steel components (gears, machine parts, etc.) that are used simply for their shape, size or texture,” Galer says. “I think he may have been one of the first steel artists to use mig flux wire as an art material rather than just a bonding medium.”
The inspiration for these pieces comes from many places, but some are very close to home. Lewis notes that two pieces speak to her in particular, “Eleanor, 1994, named after our daughter, because she embodies her strength and spirited spirit; and Masquerade 2018, due to its organic simplicity, rich texture, and use of negative space and structure.” Galler likes one of his pieces from the series. Titled ‘Caged Botany’ – it has a very bold geometric frame or a barely-there cage that contains the exuberant organic interweaving of steel shapes and curved lines. For me, he talks about the creative process, breaking through. . . As well as nature, which is constantly growing and developing in beautiful and amazing ways.”
The workshop at Smokler’s Marshall Bridge Studio titled bending metalon July 16The tenthwith precipitation date July 18The tenth. Galer and another former Smokler’s student, Mike Kahler, will lead a tour of the grounds and demonstrate Smokler’s operation, as well as help students create their own small artwork. “Students will see where the magic happens — Stan created most of his steel sculptures and taught the famous Marshall Bridge steel workshops,” Galler says. “They will see the very beautiful natural setting of Red Clay Creek as it stretches alongside his two-story historic stone studio and sculpture grounds.”
The studio itself is a wonder not to be missed, with “collapsed stone structures that lead nowhere, and set alongside Red Clay Creek, with beautiful shading trees and large steel sculptures throughout,” Galer describes. “Steel is ubiquitous, organized in a systematic way by shape, size, and weight.”
steel in flux And the bending metal A unique opportunity to see art from every angle. Smokler’s work, including the decades spent sharing his techniques and artistic journey with students of all ages and skill levels, is more than worthy of the love, care, and appreciation given in these shows. Lewis hopes it will rob those who have tried Smokler’s studio or artworks of “two legacy – the artist’s ability to transform simple, neglected steel objects into beautiful, evocative art; and his generous spirit as a teacher conveyed his passion for working in metal.”