2011 Studio Visit: Painter, Sculptor and Curator S. Thomas Scarff

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Continuing with studio visits of Contemporary Sculptors of Chicago..

Feb 2, 2011: Visited studio of sculptor Thomas S. Scarff.

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S. Thomas Scraff is a  painter, sculptor and curator par excellence.
Before I write about my visit to Sedgwick studio, let me first introduce the artist Tom Scarff.
S. Thomas Scarff was born in Mt. Pleasent, Iowa. He graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago. Scarff began his career in advertising, but in 1972, he switched to sculpting. He followed a somewhat offbeat track of illuminating  sculptures with neon light. In 1976, Scarff was invited to the Museum of Science and Industry to do a three month one-man exhibit entitled, “Fragments of A light Year”. This earned him the Hugo Award from Chicago Film Festival. National recognition and numerous exhibitions followed, like “Chicago and Vicinity” show at the Art Institute, “Raw Light” at the state of Illinois building, and “6 Scultori Americani Dall’illinois,” in Rome, Italy. Scarff has contributed to Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, participated in all the Chicago’s Pierwalk exhibits and curated many exhibitions.

Tom Scarff divides his time between two cities in two neighboring states: Chicago, Illinois, and Michigan City, Indiana. While in Chicago, he works from his Sedgwick Studio in Old Town. Sedgwick Studio is shared by some other artists John Adduci, Michael Young and Ted Sitting Crow Garner. Tom Scarff also works from his home-studio in Michigan City, Indiana. While in Michigan City, he has been curating a tremendously successful  “Odyssey Sculpture Exhibit” at Purdue North Central [PNC] University, which has. He frequently gives break to young emerging artists through this exhibition.

I have visited both his studios.
This post on about my visit to Sedgwick Studio in Old Town, Chicago..
Here is my post on my visit to Michigan City, Indiana.. click here..

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Memorial to the Fallen 21- by S. Thomas Scarff

Memorial to the Fallen 21 – by S. Thomas Scarff

 

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Tom Scarff sitting with the maquette of Memorial to the Fallen 21

Tom Scarff and maquette of Memorial to the Fallen 21

 

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I visited Tom Scarff at his Sedgwick Studio on Feb 2, 2011. As we sat down to talk, I noticed the maquette of the “Memorial of Fallen 21” on the table. So our talk began with discussion on making of this memorial, which apart from being very prestigious, and also a very challenging commission. It is one thing to make a fun sculpture, its another to make a commemorative memorial honoring fallen heroes in line of active duty. The memorial was in remembrance of Chicago firefighters who lost their lives in one of the nation’s deadliest fire prior to September 11. The fire broke out at the Chicago Stockyards on December 22, 1910. It killed 21 Chicago firefighters, including Fire Marshall James Horan. Fifty engine companies and seven hook and ladder companies fought the fire until it was declared extinguished by Chief Seyferlich on December 23. Scarff took the commission with utmost sincerity and dedication, learning about each of the fallen heroes. He has painted portraits of each of the 21 Chicago firefights. The sculpture is almost abstract human figures showing the horror of the tragedy, evoking respect for the valor of the fallen heroes. It is an 8-foot-high bronze sculpture. In 2004, the “Memorial of Fallen 21” was dedicated. The memorial is be located right behind the original Union Stock Yards Gate at the intersection of Exchange Avenue and Peoria Street.
NOTE: The original Union Stockyard Gate, made in 1875 by architects Burnham and Root, was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1972.

 

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2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff /Painting for the Memorial to the Fallen 21

2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff /Painting for the Memorial to the Fallen 21

 

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2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff /Painting for the Memorial to the Fallen 21

2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff /Painting for the Memorial to the Fallen 21

 

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Memorial to the Fallen 21- by S. Thomas Scarff

Memorial to the Fallen 21- by S. Thomas Scarff

 

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Tom Scarff is known for his large-scale public works. He often uses illumination in his outdoor as well as indoor works. I saw his experiments with neon light can be seen in his studio [image below]. His large scale public sculptures “Rainbow Flyer” and “Goddess of Wind and Sand”, have dramatic night-time illumination. In 1991, he curated an exhibition “New East Side Neon”, which showcased 10 neon sculptures displayed on the east of Michigan Avenue between Grant Park and the Chicago River. It included works by Deni Drinkwater, Jacob Fishman, Gary Justis, Steve Waldeck and Scarff himself, among others. It was developed to coincide with the dark afternoons of winter and ran through April, when Daylight Saving Time kicked in. When I visited his studio, he was working on “Icarus”, another of his illuminated sculptures.

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2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff

2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff / Neon light experimentations

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2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff  / Icarus

2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff / Work-in-Progress Icarus

 

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2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff

2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff

 

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The studio where Tom works – Sedgwick Studio – has its own very interesting history. It was made in 1900 as an electrical substation and was in use till 1960s. After removal of transformers converting AC to DC in the early 1960’s, the building remained vacant for over a decade. The sturdy built, specious interiors and high ceiling wall attracted a group of artists who bought the space in 1976 and converted into a studio. Many artists have shared this studio including John Adduci, Ted Garner and Michael Young. Many of Chicago’s large scale public sculptures have been made at this studio.

 

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2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff

2011 Studio Visit: S. Thomas Scarff

 

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Thank You Tom Scarff for your time!

As mentioned in the introduction, Tom Scarff also works from his home studio in Michigan City, Indiana. I followed up my Sedgwick Studio visit with a trip to Michigan City, to see the work of Thomas Scarff.. click here..

 

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Below are images of some of large scale public sculptures by Tom Scarff

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Goddess of Wind and Sand - by Tom Scarff

Goddess of Wind and Sand – by Tom Scarff

 

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Icarus - by Tom Scarff

Icarus – by Tom Scarff

 

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"Freedom" Fountain  - by Tom Scarff / Triangle Park at Clark and Wisconsin.

“Freedom” Fountain – by Tom Scarff / Triangle Park at Clark and Wisconsin.

 

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“Freedom Fighter” is a fountain-sculpture combination by Tom Scarff.
It is located in Triangle Park at the intersection of Clark and Wisconsin in Lincoln park, Chicago.

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Fighter - by Tom Scarff / Triangle Park at Clark and Wisconsin.

Fighter – by Tom Scarff / Triangle Park at Clark and Wisconsin.

 

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Windfighter – by S.Thomas Scarff

Windfighter – by S.Thomas Scarff / Michigan City, Indiana.

 

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Rainbow Flyer – S. Thomas Scarff

Rainbow Flyer – S. Thomas Scarff/ Michigan City, Indiana.

 

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CONTINUED..
This Sedgwick Studio visit was followed by a trip to Michigan City where he has a home studio and also curates the very successful “Odyssey Sculpture Exhibit” at Purdue University North Center [PNC].. click here..

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RELATED LINKS:
Studio Visits: click here..
Know the Artists series.. click here..

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