Artist James T. Russell discusses Lansing's newest outdoor sculpture

LANSING, MI – This past weekend, the city of Lansing dedicated a new sculpture gracing the riverfront area near the Lansing City Market. "Inspiration" is the work of California artist James T. Russell. The gleaming, stainless steel sculpture depicts a pair of curving columns meeting at a point 20 feet above the ground. Russell attended the Sunday dedication, and was also at a reception at the Saper Galleries in East Lansing. That's where WKAR's Scott Pohl caught up with the artist for a conversation about what inspired the piece. Russell says he knew the statue was a gift from donors, led by the commission that celebrated the city's 150th birthday in 2009, so he wanted to produce a piece that was graceful, elegant, and timeless. | SKIP down to article

JAMES T. RUSSELL: "I wanted it to rise upward, and of course, it points directly to the sky, and flow upwards would be exactly what I'd like to do, and that tip lining up perfect. It was absolutely important to have that the way I wanted it. And so, it was really, really fun, and a good sense of being able to create this sculpture for Lansing, because it gave me a lot of creative license, and being able to create a form that would be, as I just said, timeless, just simply flow. And the other thing, they're going to look at it, and they're going to stand back, and they're going to go up and look at their faces in it, they're going to walk through it, so they become part of it. That's the other thing. It's not only 360 degrees of views, but you get to be able to walk through the sculpture as well. And they're going to make funny faces at each other and stuff like that, and they'll do that, but they'll start to interact with it, and then it starts to become important to them."

SCOTT POHL: "The reflectivity of the surface appeals to me in a way that's similar to the sculpture that many people have seen in Millenium Park in Chicago. There's a certain quality along that line here, isn't there?"

RUSSELL: "There is, there is, and I want the white reflection because it gives you the exact reflection. It's not colored with anything. It's like if you see yourself there in a blue shirt, then it is a blue shirt that you're wearing. It's going to come back exactly the way you see it. So, as the time of day changes, so, too, does the sculpture change. It's going to change with seasons of the year, it changes with every day, when it's cloudy or when it's sunny. It changes from 5 o'clock to 6 o'clock in the morning. All those times, changes take place, and it's only because it's reflective, so it's never static. It's always in constant change."

POHL: "The sculpture takes a different form as you circle it, and the first picture I saw of it, the vision that came to my mind was the fish symbol that many Christians use. It looks like a fish standing on its tail, almost, from one angle, and it gave me a sense of a certain spirituality as, perhaps, part of your goal. Was there anything to that when you were making this design?"

RUSSELL: "I hope that that's in all of them. I actually have feelings about my sculptures which are spiritual, which is like a state of meditation, that what you want to arrive at is bliss, and that's how that sculpture was arrived at; to be as basic, not simple, but as basic in its form as it is, and point directly upward. And so, they do have a spiritual quality, at least I hope they do, because I certainly want them to do so."

POHL: "One final question. Now that you've seen the installation in Lansing, are you happy with the way it's actually turned out? Things can always change, from your initial visit to the site or any photos you may have seen of the area; how do you evaluate the final installation?"

RUSSELL: "Good question. I'm absolutely amazed at how good it looks there. It looks as good as I wanted it to look, so I was really pleased with the location. The riverfront's just wonderful! What a great place to put a work of art, on the riverfront."