Copper in the Arts

February 2020

The Multi-Faceted Work of Connie Campbell

By Stacie Jones

Ohio-based sculptor Connie R. Campbell thrives on seeing people’s reactions to her sculptures. For her, it’s all about strength, tension and energy.

“I feel, because my pieces are built under tension, that people feel that kinetic energy,” she said. “I like that aspect; it has this inner energy. It helps build the pieces.” 

Campbell, 67, grew up in Nashville, Tenn., and as a graduate student in Athens, Ohio, enjoyed roaming the wilderness of Appalachia. She often came upon the skeletal remains of animals.

Ccampbell2.jpg
Series I #10, aluminum, steel cable, wood, copper, 16″ x 20″ x 44″, 2016.
Photograph courtesy of Connie Campbell.

“The bones were still intact, it was just laying there,” she said. “It was really interesting to me.”

Campbell observed how the animal, with its flesh gone, was a different vessel.

Today, Campbell’s complex structures of copper, aluminum and wood are based on simple patterns using mathematical ratios from the Golden Section. Her current work consists of three series, each showing a growing complexity of lines and balance with a suggested archetypical form. Archetypes was on exhibit in January and February at Columbus Cultural Arts Center, Columbus, Ohio.

“In these sculptures, the interior space has become as visually important as the exterior space,” Campbell notes. “The arcs are created with actual tension of cable lines, giving the work an element of visual energy within the form.”

Lit from above, the lines, curves and repetitive planes of Campbell’s sculptures have been compared to miniature cities of abstract buildings. 

She uses numbers and series for her titles. “I don’t want to put a story to it,” she said. I want somebody to have their own interpretation. Everybody draws from their own experience,” she said.

She builds one piece at a time, working four to five hours a day.

“I’m working on a larger one right now,” she said.

Large, room-sized sculptures are how her career began. Unlike an artist who keeps adding paint to a canvas, Campbell uses spreadsheets that tell her precisely how a sculpture will take shape.

“It practically builds itself,” she said. “With me, I know when it’s done, and when it’s going to be done.” Typically, it takes a month or a month-and-a-half to build a sculpture.

“I was a welder and a caster,” Campbell said of her early career, working with steel and bronze.

She yearned for flexibility, so she began building actual traps and snares, full of tension and “the danger quality” of a sudden snap.

Her ideas evolved, and she started working with aluminum and copper on a workable scale.

“Copper was always a wonderful medium,” she said. “I’ve always loved copper because it’s easy to work with, and easy to get a hold of,” she said.

Copper’s sheen, contrast with white metals and the natural patina it acquires over time make it perfect for Campbell’s sculptures. She never applies a finish to her copper.

Campbell said she feels energized since retiring in 2011 as the cultural arts superintendent for the city of Kettering, Ohio, where she developed programming for Rosewood Arts Centre.

She was still producing art during those 27 years, but not exhibiting.

“I’m at the point now where I feel a bit freer, because I have no pressure on me,” she said. “I can experiment. It’s important to feel that freedom.”

Resources:

Connie Campbell, Middletown, OH, (937) 409-6742

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