By Brian J. Lang, Chief Curator
Through the generosity of Dr. Ron Porter and Mr. Joe Price, collectors from Columbia, S.C., the Arkansas Arts Center recently acquired this visually powerful and deeply enigmatic narrative sculpture by internationally recognized “Burning Man” sculptor, David Best.
David Best is known for his life-size and large-scale sculptures made from a variety of media, all of which make reference to life and death, love and loss, and other themes faced by humanity. Best has been described as a “master of the metaphysical metaphor.” His three-dimensional creations typically are embellished with found objects, including broken toys, wheels, discarded and fabricated plastic parts, and more.
When once asked why he works with plastics, the artist replied: “I was raised on plastic yet it has always been considered a ‘forbidden’ material (While the multiple reproductions are cheap, the means of producing them are usually prohibitively expensive)… When I am working on an important piece, I am constantly reminded of two boys whom I worked with who are now dead. When I get to that point in my work where I think it is getting heavy, they appear, and say – ‘you haven’t even begun.’ The child riding on a journey is an image which may affect people… I don’t know if my work ‘makes magic,’ but I try to make it that.”
Wanderer is a powerful and spiritual—yet not overtly religious—work, one that commands a presence. In the nearly life-size sculpture, we encounter a pallid child riding atop a sighted donkey or burro, both cloaked in mystical coverings. The child—whether male or female is not readily apparent—wears a cone-shaped hat with bottom fringe that conceals its eyes so that it cannot see except through the eyes of its mount.
Carefully packed atop the burro is a bundle of what appear to be the child’s cherished possessions—a dog, purple ball, a clown-shaped figurine, and other items. The child and burro appear to be captured mid-journey, on a quest seeking truth, enlightenment, and purpose. But where are they going? From whence did they come? These and other questions immediately spring to mind when viewing the work, which seemingly poses more questions than it answers.
Visitors are encouraged to come create their own story about Wanderer on a future visit to the galleries of the Arkansas Arts Center.
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