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Exploring Brighton’s Sculpture: Landscape Sunset, American Beauty and I-275

Patch continues its tour of Brighton’s art with sculpture by Jim Lawton, Todd Erickson, and Robert Sestock.

Last week, our tour of Brighton’s public art took us to the corner of N. First St. and Cedar St. in downtown Brighton. Stopping just outside , we took a quick look at The Bird. One of the most appreciated and recognizable pieces in the Brighton Biennial Sculpture Exhibit, The Bird was created by architect and Brighton resident Piet Lindhout.

This week, we’re doing something a little different. In a few weeks, three of Brighton Biennial’s current works will be removed from display due to expired contracts. It’s those three sculptures that are our focus today.

Landscape Sunset by James Lawton

Perhaps the boldest sculpture of the Brighton Biennial bunch, Landscape Sunset is large, heavy-looking, and bright orange. Its location in the pocket part near the intersection of Grand River Ave. and Main St. is ideal for catching the attention of passersby.

During a recent visit to see friends in Brighton, Jamey Burnett of Toledo, OH said Landscape Sunset was the first sculpture he noticed as he was driving through town.

“After that, the other sculptures starting popping out,” he said. “They definitely give Brighton a cool vibe.”    

Lawton, who received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Kent State University, teaches art at Michigan State University in Lansing. A multimedia artist, Lawton usually creates pieces that address social issues. He is specifically interested in the intersection of the self and the world at large.

American Beauty by Todd Erickson

Situated next to the massive Landscape Sunset, Todd Erickson’s medium-scale sculpture holds its own. Underneath a patina of rust, the silver-faced remnants of a once-perfect piece of steel emerge. Aptly titled American Beauty, the work calls to mind the region’s industrial boom and bust.        

Erickson received an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He has taught art at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Poetic in both composition and intention, his work explores issues of the self, faith, shelter, and personal history. In homage to his Michigan roots, he recently exhibited a series of cast bronze branches, each named after Michigan rivers.

I-275 by Robert Sestock

Located across from the public parking lot near the intersection of Pierce St. and North St., Sestock’s I-275, a 72” X 44” X 40” knot of welded steel, is in plain view of visitors, commuters and downtown residents.

Unfortunately, the work is often dismissed as a hunk of junk.

“I thought it was something else until I gave it a good look,” Brighton resident Alan Kelly said.  

and member Claudia Roblee recently expressed concern over the idea that many of the works in the display are ignored.

“What some people don’t understand,” she said, “is that art adds to a community’s ongoing conversation.”

In most cases, the sculptures get people talking about the nature of art and whether or not it adds to the community. 

I-275 is an interesting take on a topic Brighton residents are accustomed to discussing, whether they support Brighton’s public art or not.

It’s an interpretation of a traffic jam, Sestock said.

“It symbolizes what a painter might paint if they were making an abstract painting using bold brush strokes,” he added.

There you have it. A fresh take on the drama of driving.

Out with the old in with the new

Landscape Sunset, American Beauty, and I-275 will be rotated out of the Brighton Biennial Sculpture Exhibit by May 31, 2011. New works, which haven’t yet been announced, will immediately replace the sculptures.

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