Richard Hunt was in Charlotte over the weekend for the public dedication of his sculpture “Spiral Odyssey,” a stainless-steel abstract that stands in Romare Bearden Park in tribute to the Charlotte-born Bearden.
The two-part event was hosted by the Arts & Science Council and co-sponsored by Qcitymetro.
On Friday, the 82-year-old Hunt spoke to a small gathering at the Mint Museum UPTOWN about his creative process and the symbolism that can be found in Spiral Odyssey. Then on Saturday, he attended the official dedication, which included unveiling a plaque near the base of his artwork.
Related Content: See more photos from this event
Here’s a piece of Trivia…
For all the buzz about Charlotte being home to a major work by the renowned Hunt, Spiral Odyssey is not the city’s first or only piece of artwork by the Chicago master sculptor. Hunt also created the stainless-steel cross that stands on the front lawn of The Park Church on Beatties Ford Road. For years, the church used a stylized version of that cross as part of its logo.
The Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts also is home to one of Hunt’s sculptural pieces.
At Saturday’s dedication, the church provided a deep, spiritual element to the ceremony when its Combined Choir sang renditions of “Deep River” and “Oh Happy Day.”
About Spiral Odyssey
The sculpture was installed in May; it stands nearly 30 feet and weighs approximately 8,000 pounds. It was shipped in on the bed of a tractor-trailer and mounted to a round, concrete base. In a side chat I had with Hunt, he said he had as many as five assistants working with him at times to shape, well and polish the steel.
“The name “Spiral Odyssey” is a triple tribute,” veteran arts writer Lawrence Toppan wrote in a recent article. “It honors Bearden, the master collage maker who co-founded the New York group Spiral in 1963 to encourage African-American artists. It refers to Homer’s “Odyssey,” which Bearden explored multiple times in his work. And it hints at the two-decade friendship between Bearden and Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt.”
Hunt said the name also is a reference to the artistic journey that was the life of Bearden – a life that began in a former black community that once thrived on land now occupied by Bank of America Stadium, just a stone’s throw from the park that now bears Bearden’s name.
As with all abstracts, what a viewer sees when looking at Spiral Odyssey is entirely subjective. No question Hunt was inspired by elements of oceans and ships, a reference to Homer’s “Odyssey.” But where one viewer sees sails and dolphins, another sees swirling waves or the shapely form of the goddess Ino, who rescued the shipwrecked Odysseus.
To appreciate Spiral Odyssey in its range of nuance, Hunt said, it must be viewed from various angles during various weather conditions at various times of day. Such is the nature of stainless-steel artwork, he said.
About Richard Hunt:
• A Chicago-based artist, Hunt began his career in 1955 as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. His first large-scale public artwork came in 1967.
• Hunt and Bearden share the distinction of being the first two African-American artists to have solo exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The two exhibited at the museum in 1971.
• In 2009, Hunt received the International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
• Hunt’s artwork is displayed in museums around the world, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.