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Art Pick of the Week: Doris Leeper, “Garden Sculpture 3”

Art Pick of the Week: Doris Leeper, “Garden Sculpture 3”

A well-traveled sculpture (this is the work’s third home in Sarasota since 2000), Doris Leeper’s “Garden Sculpture 3” now quietly resides on the corner of 1st and Orange.

“Garden Sculpture 3” was the last in the series of sculptures Leeper created just before her death in 2000, and is a fitting denouement to an expansive career that spanned more than 50 years. 

Inducted into the Florida Artists’ Hall of Fame in 1998, Leeper transcended the simple description of “sculptor.” Bringing her passion for art to Florida in the 1950s, with the creation of the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, she recognized the State’s inspirational elements.

“I was taken with Florida’s light,” she once said. “It was so different from the Carolinas, where I lived my whole life. This is where I wanted to do my life’s work.”

Describing the first in the series, “Garden Sculpture 1,” Stetson University (from which Leeper received an honorary doctorate), professor Dr. James Murphy said, “What I admire most about these late works by Doris Leeper are their precision, clarity, and expressiveness. In ‘Garden Sculpture 1’, she uses simple modules – in this case, three triangles and a sphere – to create a tension between balance and asymmetry, stability and implied movement, abstract form and figurative content. The sleek surface of the sculpture complements the shapes, and also emphasizes her constant quest for dramatic high-tech effects.”

Although the drama Murphy describes is obvious, the street corner setting imbues the sculpture with a calming effect. Considering Leeper’s renowned passion for environmental issues, the quiet setting, partly shaded by a tall oak tree, provides a more than appropriate backdrop. 

Perhaps, with a work such as “Garden Sculpture 3,” there requires a moment of trust and connection with the audience and the environment. In essence, there’s a deeper implication between two entities. To merely walk past Leeper’s vision is an injustice to her strength as an artist. The sculpture may appear passive, but it carries the weight of both passivity and aggression. 

Perhaps a passerby may feel discomfort, or even disdain, at coming across such a jutting, angular visual narrative. But that would be a shame, for Leeper’s work springs from a heartfelt joy of communication.

“If you had a world with no music, no dance, no visual arts,” she once said, “I don’t even want to try and think about how horrible that would be.”   

 

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