Multi-disciplinary artist David Sheldon of Asheville grew up on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., and made many visits to the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art. That’s where he first encountered the fiercely powerful “Guardians of Eternity” — a pair of 7-foot-tall wooden sculptures that originally flanked the entryway of a 12th-century Buddhist temple in Japan. So, when he was recently invited to create sculptures for the Artemizia Foundation’s new gallery building in Bisbee, Arizona, the “Guardians of Eternity” immediately sprang to mind.
“I love the concept that before entering a sacred place, one needs to confront one’s own fears,” Sheldon explains. “The guardians symbolize that to me, and I considered that when working with the concept of two sentinels ‘standing guard’ before a ‘Temple of Art,’ which can — and should — present visitors with challenges to their perceptions and ideas about not only the world, but themselves, as well.
“Also, my work in sculpture has always had a cosmological component, and this was a chance to work that into a figurative approach.”
Sheldon’s sentinels are each 9-and-a-half feet tall and sculpted from spiraling, angular stainless steel rising from wooden pedestals. While doing preliminary sketches, Sheldon says that a concept emerged of pieces that would convey both a sense of protection of the building and a welcoming of visitors into the gallery. The Artemizia Foundation showcases an uncommon, world-class collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures as well as displays of street art and graffiti — including works by Warhol, Picasso, Willem de Kooning, Barbara Kruger, Jeff Koons, and Banksy.
Sheldon’s works in metal (including his local “Mars Cutter” sculpture at the Madison County Manufacturing Art Park in Mars Hill) can be found in public and private collections throughout the United States and internationally.
“I like to use my vision as an artist in contributing something both beautiful and stimulating to a community in the public realm,” adds Sheldon. He has lived in Western North Carolina for many years now, and states that his work draws inspiration from “the power and majesty of the mountains, the star-filled skies at night, and a sense that one is connected, in some way, to this vast, mysterious universe we live in.”
David Sheldon, Asheville, sheldonstudioworks.com, on Instagram @dqsheldon (see also artemiziafoundation.org). Sheldon is represented locally by Mark Bettis Gallery, markbettisgallery.com.