In a robust example of art imitating life, a steel bison recently on display at Haen Gallery in Brevard weighed in at one ton — the same as a typical, flesh-and-blood adult male bison weighs. In this case, the animal of the hour was flanked by four figures representing the story of the American Plains and its people. The ambitious commissioned work was created by local artist J. Aaron Alderman, whose public sculpture is distinguished by his style of expressive textural coils and by the use of recycled material — in this case railroad salvage, a medium choice meant to recognize the steam train’s enormous impact on historic prairie culture.
“The project was a whirlwind,” says Alderman. “Once the committee chose my concept design and approved the project, I hit the ground running. I researched live buffalo down near Columbus and Tryon and cranked out five sculptures in four-and-a-half months. The project really helped me push my work both structurally and aesthetically.”
The piece’s theme, he says, is “very poignant” in its continued relevancy. “[It] represents past cultures and how expansion influenced them and pushed them out — the railroad’s effect on the bison, industry’s effect on the environment.” Native Americans and early American farmers were forced away from the Plains by the expansion of wealth and industry, Alderman explains, “and that,” he adds, “has never stopped.”
For more about Alderman’s work, see volumesofsteel.weebly.com.