15 new sculptures unveiled Thursday for Sculpture Walk 2008

Visitors, residents and downtown workers have been watching last year's sculptures coming down and new ones going for the past month.

There are 15 new sculptures by 13 artists for Sculpture Walk 2008, which was unveiled Thursday night as art lovers walked through a light drizzle.

Uptown Columbus president Richard Bishop started the sculpture walk concept last year so there will be public art in Columbus and to have discussion about the art, he said.

Last year, it was a brand-new venture, and no one was sure what to expect.

"I just wanted to see something new and different," said Larry Sanders, the CEO of Columbus Regional Healthcare, when he attended last year's unveiling. "I was thrilled to meet the artists who were here. And 'May Flower' stole my heart." It featured a little girl in a rain slicker and boots, with her arms flung outward, face upturned and her mouth open to catch raindrops.

That sculpture, by Susan Geissler of Youngstown, N.Y., won the People's Choice award and Columbus Regional bought the sculpture, which allowed Friends of Uptown to buy Sherri Treeby's "Saturday Distraction," that shows a little boy reading a book while his dog jumps up trying to get his attention.

"Wasn't that nice? It's my childhood reflection," Geissler said of "May Flower." "I think everyone can relate to it."

This year, she has a piece called "Ma, Can I Keep Him?" It shows a young girl holding a huge cat.

"I love the name Isabelle," Geissler said. "I never had kids. I used to cast my work in Florida. She is the daughter of the foundry owner in Sarasota. She was quite a character. She comes into my thoughts frequently."

Isabelle became part of Geissler's work. Charlie is Geissler's cat.

"He's a very big cat and he's an absolute character. I remember being a kid and bringing every kind of creature home. Even before I got to do the door, I'd be yelling, 'Ma, can I keep him?' "

Bishop's goal last year was to have at least three buyers for the sculptures. He hoped they would stay downtown. He was happy to report that the goal was exceeded. Private collectors also bought "Garden" and "Gathering of Eagles." The sculpture by the students from the Thompson-Pound Art Project that's in front of CB & T was donated by the program. On loan until they are purchased or sent back to the artists are "Potato Man," "Paddle Wheel" and "Mickey Watcher."

Four of last year's sculptors are returning for Sculpture Walk 2008.

Gregory Johnson of Cumming, Ga., also sold last year's piece, "Gathering of Eagles." He said the response to his eagles has been great. He even got a call from Wyoming from the parent of a Fort Benning soldier who saw the piece while visiting Columbus.

Johnson has two pieces this year, "Fishtale" and "Nature's Little Helpers."

"I was probably 6, maybe 7, and I was fishing with my Uncle Ray," he said. "All I could remember was I caught a huge catfish."

He asked his Uncle Ray for some help and was told that he hooked the fish, he has to reel it in. So he turned his back to the pond and dragged the pole, line and fish to shore. His uncle impaled the fish on his knife to a tree.

"I couldn't eat catfish for a long, long time" after watching the fish die.

Years later, after his uncle and both parents died, his sister sent him some photos, including him with the fish.

"I believed I caught the hugest fish ever," he said. "The catfish was tiny. It was maybe 7-inches long."

Johnson's sculpture, "Fishtale" shows a young boy with a large-mouth bass. The young boy is Johnson.

"That is the only bronze I've ever done of myself," he said. "I've done my kids, my wife, the neighborhood kids."

The second is "Nature's Little Helpers," and shows some kids trying to put a birdhouse that has fallen back into a tree.

There are two local sculptors, Mike Lesh and Jon Lumpkin, with pieces being shown.

Lumpkin, an experienced sculptor, submitted a piece for the first time.

He said seeing what happened last year was a big help. He spent four months creating "Phoenix" for the sculpture walk. It's a tribute to the Muscogee Indian tribe that was indigenous to this area.

Lesh, 37, a CSU senior art student, is in the student art category.

"This ("Crossing Planes") was part of an assignment given to me by my teacher," Lesh said.

It has nothing to do with airplanes, but with the use of two different materials crossing surfaces. He uses steel and fiberglass canvas in "Crossing Planes."

Lesh should be graduating next fall, and hopes to go to graduate school.

"I'm a non-traditional student," he said. "I couldn't get my act together until now. I've been at CSU for a year-and-a-half."