Published: Nov 01, 2012 01:14 PM
Modified: Nov 01, 2012 01:15 PM
CARY - If you go downtown today you’ll see a huge tower of slightly damp clay across the street from the Cary Arts Center.
If you go Friday, that 11-foot tower will be glowing hot, stoked inside by a 2,100-degree wood fire. And if you wait a few days more you’ll see one massive piece of ceramic.
It’s all part of a public art project at the corner of Academy Street and Dry Avenue. Danish ceramics artist Nina Hole and her team are in the middle of building a 7,000-pound clay sculpture, which will essentially become its own oven when they light fires in its base this week.
The ruddy brown structure “will turn into an outdoor kiln,” said Denise Dickens, Cary’s public arts coordinator.
While clay usually is baked in a large oven, this sculpture is its own oven.
“I see so many sculptures ... and they are sometimes just like, ‘Oh-oh, here could be this sculpture,’ ” said Hole as her helpers gingerly placed another row of U-shaped bricks on the tower. “I thought it would be nice to have a sculpture that has grown out of this place.”
The town of Cary is sponsoring the project with $40,000 from its downtown development budget. Andi Dees, the town’s ceramic arts manager, first spotted Hole’s work at Appalachian State University, where Hole made one of her “monumental fire sculptures” in 2006.
In all, Hole has installed at least 16 of the projects since 1995, when she pioneered the self-kiln technique. The new method only became possible with the advent of the space-age insulation that wraps the structure during much of the firing, Hole said.
And while several artists practice the technique, “everything comes from Nina,” said Renata Cassiano, who travelled to Cary from Xalapa, Mexico, the site of another Hole sculpture. The Cary sculpture team also includes Debbie Englund of Chapel Hill and Ann-Charlotte Ohlsson of Denmark, among others.
The town project required a pretty good pitch to win funding and approval.
“It took a lot of explaining, and a lot of deer-in-headlights looks from police and fire,” Dickens said. The project is like a tiny Cary version of Burning Man, the massive arts gathering in the Nevada desert where building-size art is burned before a crowd of 50,000.
So, Cary’s party isn’t quite so wild, but it will feature a 7:30 p.m. performance Friday by the Cary Town Band, followed by the un-shrouding of the ember-like, radiating clay. To accommodate the burn, the town will shut down a portion of Academy Street from 6:30 p.m. to midnight that day, and visitors will be kept 50 feet back from the sculpture.
Until then, Hole and her crew will be up on the scaffolding, scraping and smoothing, getting ready to unveil their burning art.