Artist lecture discusses large-scale sculpting projects

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum hosted New Zealand’s Robert Onnes, who gave a lecture about the technical aspects of creating and transporting sculptures.

The lecture, “Artist Talks on Public Sculpture,” was the second lecture of a three-part series on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The event aimed to help show the logistics of sculpting large-scale projects, and to teach the about the inner workings of sculpture foundations.

Onnes also spoke heavily of 333 Midland, an art gallery he started in Detroit to showcase Michigan sculptors.

Onnes, 61, describes himself as a newcomer in the world of art, and started creating sculptures in 2006.

Previously working as an electrician, Onnes said it is never too late to get started in a new field, and that he was truly destined to be an artist.

“It was pretty late, but you only live once,” Onnes said.

It was after his first projects that Onnes took notice of the thriving art community in Detroit and relocated there with his wife.

Once in Detroit, Onnes bought an abandoned factory and created 333 Midland, an art gallery and studio that features works of many local artists.

Onnes began his talk by discussing his own works.

“Helen & Hana,” one of his most notable pieces, was created in New Zealand in 2010. The piece was originally designed for a public art commission contest, but after not being chosen, Onnes begin displaying it in public art demonstrations.

Displaying a piece in different locations rather than one permanent location created challenges for Onnes.

“Fabricating and installing a sculpture like this is hard to do,” he said.

Another facet of Onnes’ talk focused on how many sculptors, including himself, make a decent living off producing duplicates of their works in editions, and selling them to collectors as well as municipalities.

Onnes gave the example of his work, “Grounded Kiwi.”

Editions usually consist of up to 50 copies of the same work, each of which Onnes signs “ONZ,” and the year they were commissioned.

“I can do editions of these,” Onnes said.

“The Kiwis sell for about $1,000, and I made 50 in the edition,” Onnes said. “You do get quite sick of making the same thing that many times.”

The Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum will host one final artist talk on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

This final installment, “Outdoor Sculpture and the Creative Process,” will feature the Michigan based artist Kathyrose Pizzo, and will focus on materials used in sculpting.

Students interested in the event are asked to RSVP by emailing or by calling the museum directly at 989-9647125.

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