The first of three pieces of public art along downtown Cleveland Street was installed Monday afternoon: Sorcerer's Gate, a striking, brightly colored arch with a serpent-like tail.
The 450-pound sculpture, on the median between Garden Avenue and Fort Harrison Avenue, took artist Bruce White about six months to complete. It was recently displayed for about seven months at the Sarasota Season of Sculpture exhibition.
The sculpture stands 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The color changes depending on the hour of day. During the night, it's more of a deep purple-red, White says. Then it turns into a black-purple during the day. Here's an interview the Times held with the artist:
How did you become an artist?
It's just something I've done all my life, it's all I've ever done. When I was a kid I was drawing pictures on the wall and getting scolded for it. I started out as a painter and a craftsman, but the paintings got heavier and heavier, so I decided to start putting them on the floor instead of the wall.
What inspired this piece?
People often ask that question. What I really do is I manipulate materials — paper and thin sheets of aluminum — and play with them and try to surprise myself. I really never start out with an idea. I try to make accidents happen and try to turn it into a sculpture. I want to be unique, I don't want to rehash the same things over and over again. What I'm really trying to do is force new ideas.
How did you come up with the name Sorcerer's Gate?
Names come when I'm almost halfway through my sculptures, when I begin seeing things developing. I thought this looked kind of mysterious and magical.
How would you describe this piece of work to a child?
Ironically, children respond faster than adults. They come up and say that it looks scary or something, and adults say: "What's it supposed to be?" Children respond through their emotions and they're more likely to respond than adults who are looking for a secret message that really isn't there.
What's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about this piece? What's the worst?
I'm not always sure what people are thinking, but my friends always said they enjoyed the mystery of it. Others, though, (ask) what does it mean, what's it supposed to be? But that's common because people are looking for something they recognize.
Is there a meaning to this piece of work?
Probably the meaning is my imagination. When I look at art, I look at it to enjoy the artist's imagination and the uniqueness of the artist.
Is that a tail coming out of the top of your sculpture?
It's not necessarily anything, it's just a form to make it more mysterious. It's like walking into a mad scientist's laboratory. You're not sure what's going on, but you're going to be intrigued by it.
Do you think this piece will fit in well with the revitalized Cleveland Street?
Well, this is kind of a play piece — it wasn't commissioned. But still, it's an archway where you walk from one place to another, so I think it will fit in.
Have you ever been frustrated that people don't appreciate your work?
I wouldn't say "frustrated," but I think it's unfortunate if they're not enjoying mine. But I think those are the people who really haven't thought about public art. Public art is a strange animal, because you can go into a museum by choice, but public art is something you just come upon, and people can be frustrated if they don't understand the meaning. Art is like poetry. It deals more with feelings.