Massey’s experience shows in museum art exhibit

CAROL ROLF Contributing Writer Published February 26, 2012 at 2:13 a.m.
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— It’s often said, “The best way to learn is by experience.”

Conway sculptor Bryan W. Massey Sr. might say he is an example of that old saying, as he takes what he’s learned and pushes his art to new heights each time he picks up his hammer and chisel.

Some of his latest works are on display in the Trinity Gallery for Arkansas Artists at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock. The exhibit, Bryan Massey and Tom Richard: Utilizing Experiences and Myth, showcases the work of Massey, who is a professor of art at the University of Central Arkansas, and Richard, who is a professor of art at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

The exhibit features 12 pieces by Massey, all recent works. Seven of them are from 2012.

“Straight off the assembly line,” he quipped during a visit at the Second Friday Art Night on Feb. 10 in downtown Little Rock.

“I was really pleased with the opening of the exhibition,” Massey said following the Second Friday Art Night event. “There was a steady flow of people coming in and out of the gallery. I feel that the contrast between my work and Tom’s work was a good mix between the two artists. The Trinity Gallery is a good space and layout for Arkansas artists to exhibit.”

For Massey, this show demonstrates a convergence of his experience and ideas.

“Experience is just utilizing the knowledge of carving stone,” he said. “The ideas for the nautical pieces in the show came from drawings of the early ’80s and ’90s, fooling around with circles and spheres. At that time, I didn’t have the experience to carve the concepts for the nautilus series.”

Massey said he wants to carve a nautilus piece that is 5 feet in diameter.

“I have the stone in my backyard - the courtyard areas of the sculpture yard at UCA,” he said.

The exhibit, which will be on display through May 6, includes works in both limestone and alabaster.

“I usually stick with limestone because of the durability of the stone,” Massey said. “You can’t push alabaster. With limestone, you can push it a little thinner.

“I’ve been doing this (sculpting) for 33 years. Come August, it will be 34years. I’ve been at UCA for 25 years.”

Massey has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., and a Master of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from Louisiana State University in Baton Rogue.

One of his most recent commissions is ab out to come to fruition. In March of last year, he was commissioned to create a piece for the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. The piece is a depiction of Silas Hunt, the first black student enrolled in the U of A’s School of Law, and the work will stand about 9 feet tall in front of the law school.

“It’s just about ready to be installed,” Massey said, noting that the abstract sculpture began with an 8,200-pound block of limestone. “It took seven months of carving. I signed off on it in December and now just need to get up there and install it.”

Massey has several new projects that are either in place or pending.

He has work on display in the Ottenheimer Library of Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock and at the Hearne Fine Art Gallery in Little Rock.

“I have a major show that will open next year in Los Angeles,” he said. “And this fall, I will have work at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and in the Sculpture at the River Market Exhibit (sponsored by the National Sculptors Guild). Plus, I’m working on a couple of commissions as well.”

Massey admitted he is very busy.

“I have to schedule shows three and four years out,” he said. “Never in my life did I dream my work would be so in demand. I can’t take on anything new until at least 2015. I never dreamed people would be knocking at my door asking me for my work. There needs to be three of me to do the job.”

On that same Second Friday Art Night, administrators at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, also in Little Rock, had asked Massey to make an appearance there.

“They have a small collection of my work,” Massey said, “but there was no way I could be in two places at once.”

In addition to all of these exhibits and commissioned pieces, Massey still has the time to teach at UCA. This semester, he teaches three-dimensional design and Sculpture II.

He also tries to spend quality time with his family - his wife, Delphine; daughters, Junia, who graduated from Hendrix College in 2009, and Javan, a senior at Conway High School-West; and son, Bryan Jr., who is a senior at Full Sail University in Florida and plans to graduate in December.

“Maybe I can retire [from teaching] after [Javan] graduates from college,” he said with a smile.

The exhibit at the Historic Arkansas Museum, 200 E. Third St. in Little Rock, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the galleries is free. For more information, call (501) 324-9351.

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