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Artist Elizabeth Turk On Exhibit At Lux Art Institute

Turk’s “Collars” are a labor of love.

Above: Artist Elizabeth Turk uses a variety of tools to mold 400-pound blocks of marble into beautiful sculptures.

Specifics

  • Who: Artist Elizabeth Turk
  • What: Art at Lux Institute
  • When: Artist-in-Residence through Oct. 3 Work on exhibition through Oct. 31
  • Where: Lux Art Institute, 1550 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas
  • Tickets: $10
  • More Info: (760) 436-6611; www.luxartinstitute.org
Collar #11, currently on exhibition at the Lux Art Institute through October 31, was completed in 2006.
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Above: Collar #11, currently on exhibition at the Lux Art Institute through October 31, was completed in 2006.

Elizabeth Turk is the Artist-in-Residence at the Lux Art Institute until this Saturday, Oct.3. Her work will be on exhibition through Oct. 31

After spending more than three years painstakingly molding heavy pieces of Sivec and Carrara marble into intricate and delicate "Collars," sculptor Elizabeth Turk does the unthinkable.

She sets them in the ocean knowing full-well they may crumble to pieces before her very eyes.

All of the approximately 40-pound sculptures have withstood the gentle waves of the ocean so far. They are currently on view at the Lux Art Institute.

"Once you're finished, it kind of starts the next decay process," Turk said of placing her pieces in the ocean. "Rather than just placing it on a pedestal, this places the art in a larger context."

She said she considers the finished art the image of the piece resting in the sand beneath the water.

Inside the studio, the pieces illicit associations of Elizabethan collars, lace, ribbons, Western ideals, rib cages and bones. However, beneath the water, people think of sea anemones, shark teeth and patterns of nature.

Turk, who thinks and works in patterns, said she named the series "Collars" because she wanted the pieces to be accessible to everyone. Some classically Elizabethan and some romantic and lacy, the pieces now stand in the museum on pedestals as if adorning ghostly silhouettes.

Turk's pieces follow intricate patterns, and she says she loves the idea of combining classical techniques with contemporary art.

She's now completed 21 collars pounding them from 400-pound blocks of imported, discarded marble from Yugoslavia. Pounding the stone, the "man work," as she calls it, is surprising given her thin figure and delicate demeanor. The piece she is currently completing at the Lux has been a work in progress for two and a half years.

Artist Elizabeth Turk goes through many steps to carve a sculpture out of 400-pounds of marble.
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Above: Artist Elizabeth Turk goes through many steps to carve a sculpture out of 400-pounds of marble.

"I never started out to be a stone carver," Turk said. She switched from metals to stone when she exhibited in a prestigious gallery after graduation.

In that same show, Louise Bourgeois was showing her famous "Spiders Nest," which is a very dramatic, bronze work. In an effort to provide contrast, Turk decided to work in a material that was calm and less dramatic so the show would be more fluid. Her "Wings" for that show were molded from discarded pieces of the Lincoln Memorial.

The stone seduced her with its honesty and complicated delicacy, she said.

"If you hit it wrong, or don't work correctly, it breaks and you can't hide," Turk said. "You can't go in and fix it."

She also adds that stone is global, and she's drawn to its history

"Almost every culture has some monument or ideals that have been encased in stone. It's a direct notation of human history, not interpretative at all," she said.

Turk is completing the work in front of museum guests, many of whom are small children. The Lux has a unique program in which artists complete their projects in the studio. They are working directly on the museum floor, so guests see the process of art being created. Visitors can meet the artist, as well as view an exhibition of their work. In Turk's case, this includes pieces from different stages of her practice, including her work in other media, such as drawings.

Turk said she enjoys the fresh perspective from children, noting that one child walked into the room, saw the "Water Pond" piece and perceptively declared, "Oh, it's about dying water."

Though she has made a few adjustments such as working more quietly and trying to create less dust, Turk said she enjoys having her earlier work surrounding her as she creates.

Collar #7 is currently displayed in the artist studio at Lux Art Institute in Encinitas.
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Above: Collar #7 is currently displayed in the artist studio at Lux Art Institute in Encinitas.

Now, she is putting the finishing touches on "Collar #21" by sanding it and bringing the crystal structure out of the stone. When she's done, the sparkling crystals will shimmer from every contorted surface of the collar.

But for Turk, the piece won't be finished until she places it in the ocean.

"It's very humbling," Turk says about seeing the pieces beneath the water. "It also puts (them) back into their own pattern."

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