Lake Norman & Mooresville

Artist's current vision: 'Dedication'

Sparks are flying at the Gingras Studio where sculptor Dana Gingras works in the midst of steel shavings, rods and cubes, tons of steel, dozens of tools and hundreds of pieces of military surplus items.

Pieces of the sculpture "Dedication" cover the floor and line the studio wall.

Fayetteville commissioned six artists to create seven sculptures for the city's downtown Veterans Park scheduled to open on July 4. The project has to include military surplus items.

Each artist has a theme to follow.

Gingras chose "dedication" after interviewing veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.

"Whenever I get into a new project I try to understand what it is for," he said. "I need to understand the vision so that I can interpret it."

After interviewing a World War II veteran who said, "Without the dedication of our soldiers there would be no hope on the horizon," Gingras had his vision.

Dedication is a theme that runs deep for the artist as well.

"You're not an artist if you don't love it," says Gingras, who sometimes goes to his studio on Ervin Road in Mooresville in the middle of the night to think through an idea. "I love to work."

Beatles music plays. Gingras' skateboard is tipped up against a sheet of steel. On occasion he takes a spin around his work on the skateboard. All part of the process.

The process is grand. The scale is in tons. Gingras compares the weight of some of his sculptures to the weight of cars.

The Fayetteville piece will weigh in at around 5,000 pounds - more than 2 tons - and will be 9 feet tall and 18 feet long.

"I could build it lighter but it wouldn't have the permanence," said Gingras. "The more challenge, the more fun."

As a child Gingras liked to take things a part and try to put them back together. His interest in art began when he took a few art classes in college. He worked his way through college doing construction.

A three-year apprenticeship with artist Larry Livolsi, a glass blower and metal worker in Connecticut where Gingras grew up, launched his career.

"Everything you learn. It all relates."

To create a sculpture with a weight measured in tons, Gingras begins with sketches, then makes a 3D computer rendering, builds a model to scale, draws it out on the floor in chalk and does lots of measuring before he cuts.

To move a sculpture, he uses pulleys, pallet jacks, his truck and his tractor. When he moves his artwork to an exhibition he has to rent a crane.

Gingras normally works in a series, choosing a theme and developing it over the years. "Dedication" is the inspiration of a window series.

The window series deals with mass and negative space. These pieces urge the viewer to contemplate the mass and structure of the piece, but also to see through them, to focus on the negative spaces, and the environment where they reside.

"Dedication" is a bit of a transition piece merging the two series.

And most things have a touch of humor.

"I like to build things that amuse me," said Gingras. This is evident on a walk through the sculpture garden in front of The Andre Christine Gallery, 148 Ervin Road, Mooresville, the Gingras family's art gallery.

This is where Gingras works and lives. It is surrounded by an assortment of sculptures, serious in their dedication to craft and design, each with an element of playfulness.

The red pyramid sculpture is called "Ode To Oblio" and references a 1971 animated movie narrated by Dustin Hoffman and Ringo Starr called "The Point" in which poor Oblio was born into a very pointed world, with no point of his own. A series of adventures befall Oblio throughout the movie until he realizes he had a point all along.

Gingras walks around "Ode to Oblio," "The King Waiting for the Queen's Return" (and he's still waiting), "Key Hole," "Relic," "Graviton" and "Twirl."

He stops at "Twirl" and with a chuckle gives it a spin.