Richard Jolley’s monumental installation at Knoxville Museum of Art addresses big questions

richard-talking-two

Artist Richard Jolley invited local tourism officials recently to tour his studio and a warehouse to see his monumental work-in-progress.

In a little less than a year, an art installation that organizers hope will be the “tipping point” for Knoxville’s growing reputation as a vibrant arts and culture destination will have its official opening.

David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, addressing the group.

David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, addressing the group.

The installation being created now by internationally renowned glass artist Richard Jolley, will cost upward of $1 million. It will permanently adorn the Knoxville Museum of Art‘s 3,500-square-foot Great Hall. Called Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity and forged in glass and steel, it portrays the epic story of humanity. It will sprawl 185 running feet and will weigh more than seven tons.

Jolley already has brought a degree of prominence to Knoxville through his work. He has participated in more than 65 solo museum and gallery exhibits throughout the country as well as in Europe and Japan and his works can be found in more than 33 public collections including the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Corning Museum of Glass, Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Jolley is perhaps more recognized outside his home than in it. Superstar Elton John is a fan. Jolley’s works have been photographed in John’s Atlanta home for national magazine features. Jolley was born in Wichita but was raised in East Tennessee. He attended Tusculum College and then received his Masters of Fine Arts degree at Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University) in Nashville.

Since 1975, he has operated a studio in Knoxville and he jokes that he, “having acquired too much heavy equipment and ephemera, will most likely remain.”

Tommie Rush, Jolley's wife, is critical to the success of the project. A glass artist in her own right, she is handling details in order to free Jolley to keep moving forward.

Tommie Rush, Jolley's wife, is crucial to the success of the project. A glass artist in her own right, she is handling details in order to free Jolley to concentrate on completing the installation.

But let’s talk about this transformative project, what Knoxville Museum of Art Executive Director David Butler says will be “the largest figural glass assemblage in the world.”

Funded largely by a gift from Ann and Steve Bailey, the project already has been underway three years in Jolley’s west Knoxville studio and in a borrowed warehouse. Actual installation into the museum, where it will be bolted to the walls and part of the ceiling of the Great Hall, will commence this fall. It will be unveiled to the world during a series of events from April 29 through May 4, 2014.

The piece will consist of seven huge glass and steel panels addressing the cycle of human life. They are titled Primordial, Emergence, Flight, Desire, Tree of Life, Contemplation and Sky. I have visited Jolley’s studio three times since he started work on Cycle of Life and, as a long-time fan of his, I can see that this is the culmination of all the work he has done in the past. From the birds and totems of his early days, to the star charts and skies of about 10 years ago, to the big flat red and yellow bronze moons and portraits that followed, this work encompasses and pushes forward all of them. And through it all, is “that” man — a self-portrait of Jolley himself — and his recurring female partner who are central to so much of his body of work. I am glad that those two figures — done in a grand scale in this case — are a part of this important work because they say Richard Jolley to me.

The museum, designed by famous American architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and opened to the public in 1990, also is in the midst of a spruce-up. Its entryway currently is being reconfigured and that is just part of the plans for a comprehensive renovation of its signature Clayton Building. New garden areas also are in the works.

So, mark your calendars for April 29 through May 4. You do not want to miss any of the excitement when the world returns to Knoxville. This time, for an insight into life’s biggest questions.

This photo shows the scale of the pieces in the installation.

This photo shows the scale of the pieces in the installation.

The vistors included folks from the Museum of Art's board and staff as well as tourism officials.

The vistors included folks from the Museum of Art's board and staff as well as tourism officials.

County Commissioner Brad and Jennifer Anders. Brad is on the board of Visit Knoxville, our city's convention and visitors bureau.

County Commissioner Brad and Jennifer Anders. Brad is on the board of Visit Knoxville, our city's convention and visitors bureau.

Staff members of Visit Knoxville, from left, Kim Bumpas, Katherine Saxon, Kim Davis (in back), Brad Keaton (in front) and Brent Thompson

Staff members of Visit Knoxville, from left, Kim Bumpas, Katherine Saxon, Kim Davis (in back), Brad Keaton (in front) and Brent Thompson

Concert promoter Ashley Capps and his wife, Birgitta Clark

Concert promoter Ashley Capps and his wife, Birgitta Clark. Capps is a member of Visit Knoxville's board of directors.

From left, Kim Davis, Carmen Tegano, Bill Lyons and Deborah Tegano

From left, Kim Davis, Carmen Tegano, Bill Lyons and Deborah Tegano. Lyons and Carmen Tegano are members of Visit Knoxville's board of directors.

Part of the section called "Emergence"

Part of the section called "Emergence"

A closer look

A closer look

This was a model. It is important to be sure all the figures physically can fit into the museum's Great Hall. One of the pieces is so large that Jolley figures he has one inch of clearance to get it into the museum.

This was a model for one of the figures. It is important to be sure all the figures physically can fit into the museum's Great Hall. One of the pieces is so large that Jolley figures he has one inch of clearance to get it into the museum.

"Desire"

"Desire"

Brent Thompson and Dorothy Stair

Brent Thompson and Dorothy Stair, a member of Visit Knoxville's board of directors.

Kreis Beall documenting the event

Kreis Beall documenting the event. She is a member of the museum's board of trustees and an important supporter of this project.

This will be part of the sky.

This will be part of the sky.

Jolley

Jolley

Want to read more about this project? Click here for a great story about it by Amy McRary of the News Sentinel. Click here for a post on The Blue Streak the last time we visited Jolley’s studio.

Photo credit: The picture of five members of the Visit Knoxville staff was provided by Visit Knoxville. Thanks.

Filed under: Art, Events. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Richard Jolley’s monumental installation at Knoxville Museum of Art addresses big questions

  1. AlanCarmichael, on June 5th, 2013 at 5:04 pm said:

    I didn’t say this first, but this is going to be seen as a fresh voice on a universal narrative. And thinking locally, it is going to help people see Knoxville in a new way for supporting such an installation.

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on June 5th, 2013 at 7:57 pm said:

    Alan: I couldn’t agree more. Can’t wait till opening day!

  3. Gay Lyons, on June 5th, 2013 at 11:06 pm said:

    This is going to be so cool!

  4. Katie Kline, on June 6th, 2013 at 7:45 am said:

    Cynthia – Thanks for a great story and what a great thing for the KMA and Knoxville. Cant’t wait to see it. I am a big fan of both Richard and Tommie.

  5. Pingback: Blue Streak » Glittering Glass Ball launches new era at museum

Leave a Reply