AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art will present the works of artist and Auburn alumna Jean Woodham in exhibition as part of its 10th year anniversary focus on sculpture. “Full Circle: The Sculptures of Jean Woodham” will be on display June 1-Oct. 12 and will include 16 pieces of sculpture in bronze, brass, wood and steel.
Woodham, a 1946 alumna of Auburn, has two sculptures sited on campus: “Spinoff” at the museum’s entrance and “Auburn Monody” outside Goodwin Hall.
Her early works were forms in stone, clay and wood, but she began welding in the early 1950s.
“I prefer welding because I can make anything I want to make,” she said. “I realized the moment I first saw a piece by sculptor David Smith that welding would allow me to make a skinny form carry a heavy weight. It was the physics of what I could do with heated metal that inspired me.”
Her large outdoor sculptures can be seen at museums, government buildings, schools, corporate headquarters and outdoor spaces, with more than 150 pieces in public and private collections. Her commissions have come from the World Bank, General Electric, Nynex, GTE, the New York Board of Education, Connecticut Commission on the Arts and Auburn University, among others.
“We have wanted to present a retrospective of Jean Woodham’s sculpture for some time,” said Dennis Harper, curator of exhibitions and collections. “In addition to her own achievements, Woodham has worked alongside some of the most important sculptors of the 20th century.”
While some sculptors make two or three graduated sizes of a piece before the larger version, Woodham first made a five foot version of “Auburn Monody” and moved directly to the nearly 20-foot piece seen today at the entrance of Goodwin Hall. The word monody means a dirge sung by one voice; Woodham said “Auburn Monody” was a dirge for John F. Kennedy.
Large-scale sculptors sometimes create a small-scale model, a maquette, and then let industrial fabricators finish the project, but Woodham prefers to cut, hammer and weld the sculpture herself. She says if you give your work to fabricators, you give others the right to interpret your work or you give them access to copy it. “When I make it myself, I am the only one who gets to alter the sculpture in any way.”
“Today, fewer artists solve the problems of scale and proportion by making physical models,” she said. “Those who have embraced technology use three-dimensional computer programs to plan large scale sculpture.”
Admission to the exhibition is free courtesy of the museum’s business partners. A preview of “Full Circle” will be held on Thursday, May 30, at 6 p.m. for student and museum members. Students can get a free membership on the museum’s website with a valid Auburn ID. Levels and benefits of museum membership are available at www.jcsm.auburn.edu/join.
(Contributed by Charlotte Hendrix.)