by Len Lear
“As a young child I remember spending lazy summer afternoons lounging on the grass of our ample suburban lawn staring at the sky through the filtered frame of the tallest trees and their wavering limbs. My body physiologically remembers the feeling of peace, quiet and total calm that it would bring me. The experience of sitting under the protective limbs of a mature tree and having my body ooze into relaxation and my mind calm and reflective is the feeling I aim to replicate in my work. I want to instill moments of quiet, peace, joy, awe, wonderment and nostalgia in the viewer. I want to suspend reality and empty minds from the never-ending to-do lists.”
This is Carole Loeffler’s explanation for the inspiration behind “Meditative Mediations,” an extraordinary, non-orthodox site-specific, outdoor sculpture “exhibit” at Awbury Arboretum, which opened Dec. 6 at One Awbury Rd. in Germantown and will remain up through mid-February. The collection of eight sculptural works across the arboretum’s landscape by Loeffler and Maryann Worrell, both professors at Arcadia University in Glenside, will encourage the audience to experience and appreciate the landscape of Awbury.
These works, explained Loeffler, 39, a Germantown resident, “require the viewer to pause, stop and think about the environment in which they are standing. We hope viewers utilize our work to give themselves a moment to contemplate and reconnect with nature.”
Loeffler, who works in sculpture, fibers and fabrics in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings, grew up in northern NJ in a rural area called Scenic Lakes. From her earliest childhood days, she cannot remember wanting to be anything other than an artist. Her parents always supported her dream and paid for art lessons when she was in elementary school.
From 2001 to 2005 Carole taught at Southern Illinois University but then returned to the northeast to take a teaching position at Arcadia University heading up the “Foundations” curriculum. Nearly all of Loeffler’s work is sculpture. Some are wall pieces, some are made for galleries, some are site-specific, and some are installation. She has always been drawn to making work in three dimensions.
“I begin with the selection of materials and let them direct the art-making process based on how they allow me to transform them,” she explained. ”The materials — textures, patterns and forms in combination with abstraction — are where my work begins. Lately, I have been most interested in the trees and plant life outside the windows of my Germantown home. I respond to the chunky textures of tree bark, the unfulfilled life of a tree stump, the silhouette of tree branches and the shape and form of fallen, dried and curling leaves.”
The Awbury Arboretum exhibit was born when Arcadia University, Project Learn School and Awbury Arboretum partnered together to create a collaborative art installation by students that will be exhibited in the Secret Garden at the arboretum in the spring of 2015. Through the meetings for this opportunity, Carole approached Heather Zimmerman, of Awbury, about the possibility of installing works by Carole and Maryann late this year. The two artists visited the arboretum, walked around the entirety of the space on a crisp fall afternoon for a few hours, took photos, wrote down some notes and brainstormed about what they could create.
All of the pieces are truly site-specific and were created for exact locations and contexts that the arboretum has to offer. Carole and Maryann then put a proposal together for a grant from Arcadia University and submitted the proposal to the arboretum. Both the proposal and grant were approved, and the duo began making the work in late October. Since October they have been working on the pieces and also met with an Awbury landscape manager, who pointed out appropriate spaces and rare specimens on location.
If Carole had her life to live all over again, would she still be an artist/sculptor? “Absolutely!” she insisted. “Creative people think differently and see the world through different eyes. I am so thankful that I am able to create work that lives in my mind and comes to life through my hands …
“I am so privileged to be able to do what I love, which is making art, sharing it and teaching others.”
What advice would Loeffler give to a young aspiring artist who worries about making a living from his/her art? “The most important advice I can give a young artist is to be ambitious, dream big and think creatively!” she replied. “It is important to have an entrepreneurial spirit and go after what you want. The last bit of advice I give students is that life is long, and making art is a marathon, and although if right out of school you don’t get to doing exactly what you want, don’t give up!”