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A sculpture garden’s metamorphosis

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Posted on: June 6, 2024

By AIESHA SOLOMON

In the city of Laurel, it is easy to spot projects sponsored by the Laurel Arts Council (LAC). Colorful fish peeking from pots filled with native plants on Main Street. The life cycle of a Monarch butterfly painted on a shed in Sturgis Moore Park. A tiled bench at McCullough Field.

In the summer of 2023, the council started exploring a new project featuring bird sculptures for Granville Gude Park with Christine Lee Tyler, a multidisciplinary artist and the visual arts department chair at St. Vincent Pallotti High School.

Christine Lee Tyler works on pieces for the sculpture garden in her classroom at St. Vincent Pallotti High School.
Courtesy of Aiesha Solomon

“The arts council was supportive of the idea of public art, art in public spaces. That’s something that we’ve been really looking for opportunities to invest in for a number of reasons,” Kayleigh De La Puente, president of the LAC, said. “When Christine came to us with this project, for a public art garden, a sculpture garden at the lake, which is a very public space, we thought it really kind of matched those goals.”

In an interview, Tyler said her art supports the ideology of eco-feminism. Pieces featured in the garden at the park include bird sculptures with women’s faces, net fungi hands holding birds and a net fungi 8-foot tall female leg raising a bird. Net fungi are mushrooms with net-like structures.

“There’s the larger, broader statement of just like realigning women with nature, realigning humanity with nature,” Tyler said.

Tyler got her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1998 from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She completed her Master of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College, also in New York, in 2019. She is a sculptor and painter, does ceramic work, and makes collages and videos.

“I don’t like to limit myself to one medium. I like to explore different media. I feel as though it just opens my world a little bit more and it allows me to express what I want to express,” Tyler said. “I’m not trapped into the idea of just using painting or just using ceramics, like I like the idea of exploring.”

An audio element is also part of Tyler’s sculpture garden at Gude Park. She composed bird sounds using her voice and sound effects.

“They have speakers all up and down the trail, and it’s activated by your presence,” she said. “When you go by, you’ll

Birds with female faces are part of the sculpture garden at Granville Gude Park.
Birds with female faces are part of the sculpture garden at Granville Gude Park.
Courtesy of Aiesha Solomon

hear it, but people may hear it and think it’s just birds.”

Funding for the project was provided by the Laurel Arts Council.

“I wasn’t in it for monetary gain. I honestly was in this for getting art into Laurel,” Tyler said. She added that she hopes the project acts as “a springboard for other artists to come in and work in the park as well.”

The Laurel Parks and Recreation Department installed the sculptures at the park on May 2. Before the garden’s official opening on May 4 as part of Lakefest, several pieces were damaged. The Laurel Police Department is investigating the incident.

“The community was absolutely wonderful. People were coming up to me and taking photos and really embraced the idea. They loved it. I do not think this [the damage] is a reflection of the community whatsoever,” Tyler said, noting that the pieces will be refurbished.

Bird sculptures made of rebar and cement are also planned for installation along the fence at Laurel Lake. If those work well, Tyler’s goal is to have nine birds posed as if they’re becoming airborne. Tyler described the group’s progression: “the four in the back being lowest of the ground, and then the three in front of those four being a little higher, and then the two being even higher and then the last one being the highest.”

De La Puente said the sculptures bring both beauty and public art to the community.

“It’s a visual show to the public that there’s a community here, and a community that cares about their spaces,” De La Puente said. “It also attracts people to our city.”

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