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Awe greets Language of Sculpture exhibit at Festival of the Arts

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Ben Dye’s sculpture “Hippocampus,” at right, stands 13 feet high and took over 1000 hours to create.

When you look up at Ben Dye's creation 'Hippocampus,' standing so tall in the sun, you cannot help but laugh with delight.

Which is just what Dye wants you to do.

'An art piece is successful if people give any reaction,' Dye said. 'Except confusion.'

Dye's work, along with many other outstanding sculptors, drew a gallery of reactions - especially awe - in their special exhibit 'The Language of Sculpture,' the cornerstone exhibit of the 2011 Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts this past weekend.

'Hippocampus' was so large it had to be placed outdoors, but the 13-foot high sculpture of the mythical horse/sea monster was overwhelming in its concept, size and color. It took Dye 1,000 hours of work to come up with this towering piece, which he built specifically for the FOA and was exhibiting for the very first time.

'It's like a skyscraper in its inner structure,' Dye said. 'I was inspired by early carousel animals.'

Back inside of the exhibit it was a joy for patrons to see such sculptures as Ken Patton's beaver made out of woodworking tools, the gigantic knife by Bruce West, Rip Caswell's 'Daddy's Girl,' Jason Johnson's golden astronaut apparently sliding into third base, and Jill Perry Townsend's beautiful sea goddesses.

But while these finished products are enough in themselves, all the sculptors took extensive measures to educate patrons on how their work came about. For example, Dye gave a slide presentation that showed each stage of 'Hippocampus.'

The sculptor who perhaps made the greatest effort to reveal the art process was Louis Delegato, who provided a remarkable number of photos and sketches for his steel sculpture 'Circumstance.'

'He went crazy,' Dye said. 'Louis's academic background was really evident.'

'We wanted to go over and above,' said Rick Gregg, who has been a sculptor for 46 years and is also a blacksmith.

The first call for artists for the Language of Sculpture went out last August, and Dye was delighted by the reception of the exhibit in Lake Oswego.

Certainly patrons were amazed at the transformation of 'Hippocampus' from old oil drums and pressure tanks into what Dye considers his premier creation..

'We really wanted to explain the process,' Dye said.