JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 17, 2010 – Union University art professor Lee Benson recently returned from Sydney, Australia, where he oversaw the construction of his first international sculpture.
Benson was the only American of four international artists to receive the 2010 Ephemeral and Site Specific sculpture prize at Sculpture by the Sea in Sydney.
The sculpture, “Title Wave,” is a construction of uncut 2-by-4 boards in the shape of a wave, standing 40 feet long, 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall. The art sits on Bondi Beach in Sydney Harbor, which Benson described as a “small, intimate beach.”
“It is an environmental sculpture that allows the viewer to enter into it in multiple directions,” Benson said. “It will encase you in some areas.”
The competition, which involved three rounds of judging, required the artist to provide qualifications, engineering drawings and pictures of the piece he wanted to create.
“You had to prove your qualifications for being able to pull this off,” Benson said.
Benson said his wife, Betty Benson, who also traveled to Sydney, is involved with his projects as an important part of Benson Sculpture, LLC.
“She directs all the crane operators, and arranges all the contractors and then she actually physically gets out there and helps me build,” Benson said.
“Title Wave” was not the first sculpture of its kind for which Benson has won awards. He has designed and constructed similar wooden structures at locations across the United States, including South Dakota, Indiana and Florida.
The sculpture in Australia will remain on the beach through Nov. 19. As with Benson’s other projects, once the pieces are dismantled, the wood from the sculpture will be given to Habitat for Humanity International to be used to build a home for a low-income family.
Benson said he was glad to be able to show his students at Union by example that art can be more than a hobby — that for a Christian, it can be a vocation. Students often find it enlightening, he said, that there is no contradiction between being a committed Christian and practicing art.
“Art is a calling on your life,” Benson said, in the same way that people are called to be a minister or a doctor.
Benson said Union President David S. Dockery has been a great supporter of Union’s art department because he sees both the value of the arts and the need for Christians in the arts.
“He understands that the arts are pivotal in not only understanding, but also engaging the culture,” Benson said.
By Samantha Adams (’13)