“This is a very large, daunting project,” Browne said Friday. “This is something I’m obviously honored to have the opportunity to work on, but I definitely have my work cut out for me.”
He is just beginning what will become a four-piece sculpture that depicts a grandfather figure sitting in a chair reading to two grandchildren, a young girl and boy, who are seated on cushions on the ground. An empty cushion in between them will make the artwork interactive, allowing children to sit on it, have their picture taken and ultimately act as an invitation to encourage reading and learning, Browne said.
“More than anything, it represents the passing of knowledge from generation to generation,” he said. “What better way to symbolize that than with story time?”
The scale of this project – which is beginning with 40,000 pounds of Sylacauga marble from Alabama Marble Company, is not the only thing that makes it different than Browne’s other major work in the city.
“This is a way to give people a look into the process and the work that goes into each piece,” he said. “They got to see the end of ‘Sylacauga Emerging,’ but they didn’t see slinging sledge hammers and getting off 150-pound chunks. This is an approachable, visitor-friendly project that is meant for the people of Sylacauga to see, as well as anybody who passes through the area.”
Library Director Shirley Spears said the sculpture, which has been in development for many months, is “a good fit for the library grounds because it represents what we are all about. It really sends a message that it is important to start early with children, teaching them to read and love learning.”
Browne will spend the next year or more at work on the sculpture. His work site at the intersection of South Norton Avenue and West Hickory Street – where he will carve six days a week alongside his “greeter,” 8 month-old Australian Shepherd, Daphne – was provided by Coosa Valley Medical Center through a temporary permit to the Sylacauga Arts Council. The project is has also been supported by the Magic of Marble Committee, Imerys Carbonates and other contributors.
The living art show that is the creation of this piece is something that will “hopefully put Sylacauga on the list of places to see in Alabama,” Browne said.
“The biggest thing I want is for this to be something the city can enjoy, especially by making this piece kid-friendly and interactive,” he said. “This is a great look at the art form, as opposed to when you walk into a gallery and you can see the piece, but it’s roped off 10 feet away. Almost 20 years ago when I had a show here and did a piece at the (Comer Museum), I was thinking back then that Sylacauga should be doing something like what they’re doing now to showcase the marble. It’s good to see Alabama stone being celebrated again like it used to be.”
The Birmingham native and recent Sylacauga transplant said he recognizes the “intimidating” quality of having two major works of art in prominent locations in the city, but he remains focused on the day-to-day.
“It’s something I really don’t think about,” he said. “I just try to set daily goals and work towards accomplishing what I’ve got set aside each day. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do a project like this, especially for a place that is so close to home and is becoming my new home. I came here for the marble, but the people are the reason I am still here.”
Contact Emily Adams at email@example.com.