Sculptor Dolf James: A Love of Metal, Community & Public Art

RUC_5024Dolf James has worked hard these past years. Ever since imagination #2, he has diligently been a mentor to many young artists, a gatekeeper for dozens of artists at CoRK in Historic Riverside, and a working sculptor.

His number 1 with an asterisk debuted at the inaugural One Spark event. He has continued to be a voice in the region regarding art and culture, and he has developed a studio worth salivating over at CoRK that’s a true sculptor’s paradise— and the door is locked, so he can work.

When asked what he thinks about the impact of the recent J. Johnson Gallery show in which his sculptures were showcased, he said, “I would like to think it helped validate our local art community. I was the lucky one, but there are many deserving artists in this town and maybe the art buying community will start taking notice.” His work is selling, and he’s proud of that.

FRN_1168The Cummer is proudly featuring his work on the front lawn— it’s the steely aluminum sculpture with the pointy edges and cubist, eye-popping lines. He thinks the reaction to the piece has been very favorable. “We don’t have much public art in Jacksonville, so maybe this will help push the conversation along,” he goes on to say. In addition to this, a huge sculpture was unveiled inside the rotunda at City Hall during the VIP reception at this year’s Cultural Council Annual Art Awards in early May. The area has never had a piece of sculpture in its midst, much less the size of this piece. The mere fact that such a piece is introduced in this large public space gives City Hall guests and government employees an opportunity to experience public art, some for the first time.

It’s critically important that Jacksonville City Councilpersons learn about the effect public art has on the art and cultural environments in Jacksonville. The impact is being felt by all who see it. Daily business at City Hall is changed— government officials as well as the man on the street have a new experience upon entrance. “If the public reaction is positive, our city officials will be more emboldened to support public art. If nothing else, it is a great big conversation starter because they have to walk by this piece every day. Just the fact that it is there in the rotunda at City Hall is a BIG step forward already, a statement, and I really appreciate them letting it happen,” says James.

James thinks it’s important to become involved in projects that affect the quality life for all of us. “A huge part of the reason I get involved in many of these projects,” says James, “ is to get others to think about what the possibilities are, to get them to think about what they could do. I am not the most creative person in town, nor am I the best artist. So maybe these others will say, ‘I have an even better idea, and if he can do it, then I can do it too.’”

He feels that the more creative teams we have running around the city doing creative projects, the more we all benefit. “The excitement and momentum will grow,” says James. “More opportunities will become available. Besides, it’s just a lot of fun to do them!” It’s important that the community take responsibility for the art it showcases in our public venues. By doing this, we mirror what we think about community and how we live, work and play.

“I don’t care who you are or where you live, you have art of some type hanging on the walls in your home,” Dolf says. “Ask yourself why, why did you put it there? It reminds you of something. It says something to you. It brings out some type of emotion. It takes you out of the moment, out of the everyday, and makes you think, and it does so in a way that nothing else can. Public art accomplishes the same thing, and often in a big way. New thoughts, different experiences— I want one on every corner!” And perhaps, one day, Jacksonville will do just that: express itself on every corner with fabulous art that makes you think, reminisce, smile, laugh, cry, react. Everyone should have a favorite place to go, a favorite piece of public art to touch, see, feel, and talk about. Now is the time to get started.


About Joanelle Mulrain