Hey, Who's That Guy Dragging A Slab Of Marble Around Hartford?
Samuel Rowlett Calls His Adventure A Hybrid Between Performance Art And Sculpture
By SUSAN DUNNE
August 14, 2012
Here's a head's up to people who live and work in Hartford:
On Thursday, Aug. 16, from about noon to about 6 p.m., you might see a man walking the sidewalks of the city, dragging behind him a 75-pound block of marble. He is not an escapee from a chain gang. He is not doing resistance training. He is an artist.
If you go up to him and talk to him, he'd be delighted. And if you ask him, "why is this art?" Samuel Rowlett has a ready answer.
"It's sort of a bit of a hybrid between performance art and sculpture," Rowlett says. "A lot of times, we think about art after it's been done, after the art is presented in the gallery. For me, I've been trying to open up my own studio practice as part of the art, too. I enjoy the actual making of it. It's a way to show my cards and use it as a point of conversation."
And dragging marble around the city accomplishes this, he says, because the marble will gradually be worn away by the friction against the sidewalk, leaving a trail of dust in its wake. "The title of the piece is 'Nothing Ever Really Goes Away.' I was kind of thinking about the idea of subtractive sculpture, about the block as being the whole, how you may create sculpture from it but the block itself never really goes away."
Rowlett will start his journey, with the half-cubic-foot chunk tethered to his backpack, "around midday." He hasn't decided yet where he will start or what route he will take. He's been soliciting suggestions on Facebook for cultural highlights of Hartford that he, as a stranger to the city, absolutely must see. (He was born in England, raised in Vermont and lives now in Haydenville, Mass.)
"I'll have a map and my phone and my GPS. I hope to really ask people for directions," he said. "It'll give me a chance to see some things I haven't seen before."
Two things he does know: His citywide trek will be entirely outdoors — it's unlikely a historical landmark would let him scrape a marble slab across its floor — and it will end at the Creative Cocktail Hour at Real Art Ways some time between 6 and 7 p.m. The arts venue currently has an exhibit up of Rowlett's work, "An Unnamed Flowing, Nowhere," and is opening two other exhibits at the cocktail hour.
"By the time I get there, I hope they will have a refreshing beverage for me. I'm going to need it," Rowlett said. Thursday's weather is supposed to be sunny, with a high of 84 degrees.
Rowlett got the idea for the performance piece during another Hartford-based exploration, a canoe journey down the Park River, which runs under the city, through a tunnel-like cement enclosure.
"The canoe did a lot of grinding in the tunnel that the river is encased in ... scraping the bottom of the concrete channel," he said. "I put aluminum flashing on the bottom of my canoe, duct taped it there, or the scraping would have easily chewed through the polyester canvas on the canoe."
However, it isn't the first "physical challenge" art event Rowlett has done. In previous art events, he has carried a painting, and a canoe, on his back.
"It's the first time I've really sort of tackled sculpture with a capital S," he said. "I am going out on a date with sculpture."
AN UNNAMED FLOWING, NOWHERE, works by Samuel Rowlett, will be at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St. in Hartford, through Sunday, Sept. 9. On Thursday, Aug. 16, at Creative Cocktail Hour, from 6 to 10 p.m., Rowlett will be present, and the venue will open "Ronnie Rysz: Closed Circle" and "Gail Biederman: You & Me, Together & Apart." Details: www.realartways.org.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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