Professor featured in Birmingham


Cokie Thompson

If you walk through Woods Quad, you can’t miss it: Dozens, if not hundreds, of metal squares form a massive sculpture in the center of the courtyard.

Its placement on campus allows it to spark conversation among everyone that passes by, not just those who wander into the nearby Sarah Moody Gallery. Similar sculptures are on the roof of a museum in Birmingham, for a similar purpose.

From now until Aug. 31, sculptures by University of Alabama professor Craig Wedderspoon will be shown in the Lower Sculpture Garden of the Birmingham Museum of Art. About five years ago, a curator at the museum came to Tuscaloosa to visit with UA faculty and look at their work.

“Because I do work that’s mainly for outdoors, he became very interested in the possibility of doing an exhibition over there for their outdoor gallery up on the roof,” Wedderspoon said. “I was pretty stoked about it, so I did a bunch of drawings to suit that particular space.”

Wedderspoon said he hopes all of his work will spark conversation with a wide audience.

“As much as I enjoy exhibiting work in galleries and museums, it’s a very small percentage of the population that ever go into galleries and museums,” Wedderspoon said.

While he was an undergraduate student, a professor asked Wedderspoon if what he had to say was important enough for him to create on such a large scale.

“We humans produce enough crap to put on the planet, so why do I need to make these really big things?” Wedderspoon said. “I guess making these pieces is an attempt to answer that question and to engage in a larger conversation than just the art crowd.”

The exhibit is part of the museum’s efforts to engage a wider audience. The sculpture garden, as well as programs the museum has held in the space, encouraged visitors to play a more active role in the experience.

“We’re trying to make that space more interactive so that the art becomes a part of the space,” said Kristin Greenwood, the associate curator of education for the museum. “People are going into that space, being a part of the space, not just looking at the artwork but actually experiencing it through touch and through different angles and viewings.”

Kristi Taft, the exhibitions coordinator at the Birmingham Museum of Art, said she considers Wedderspoon’s work beautiful.

“They’re just very organic and inviting for people to come in and touch and look around,” Taft said.

In addition to the interactivity, the exhibition is part of the museum’s effort to focus on the rich art culture in the Alabama community.

“We really have an initiative to feature local and regional artists, particularly Birmingham and Alabama artists,” she said. “This was another opportunity to bring in a talented and well-respected sculptor in our region.”

Wedderspoon said he is lucky to be in this position. Without the support from the College of Arts and Sciences, Dean Olin in particular, along with the department and the Alabama State Council on the Arts, he would not be able to produce work in the way he has been able.

“They gave me sabbatical all last semester so I would be able to work full-time on this and not have to worry about anything else. I can’t do this without those four entities,” Wedderspoon said.