Wheels within wheels continue to inspire art, win grant

May 7, 2010 | Arts, UToday
By Cynthia Nowak

Tom Lingeman posed for a photo with one of his works titled “New World.”

Tom Lingeman posed for a photo with one of his works titled “New World.”

Artists often find inspiration in unusual places. Tom Lingeman, professor of art, is planning to find some this summer at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, at the labyrinth inside Chartres Cathedral and at other European sites, thanks to a University Research Awards and Fellowship (URAF) grant administered by the UT Office of Research Development.

URAF grants are designed to support the diverse range of faculty research and scholarship at UT, supplementing external grants and stimulating scholarly endeavors for new and senior faculty.

The $11,200 grant will be utilized during Summer Session II for a project titled “Rediscovering the Wheel: Integrating the Sculptural Processes of Metal Casting, Metal Fabrication, Ceramics and Stone Carving as a Means of Creating Metaphors for Our Endangered Planet.”

“I had been intending to apply for a URAF grant for a while,” Lingeman said. “I’m going to be applying for a sabbatical in another year, so this grant will be a warm-up for the work I’ll be doing then. Then with the new work from this grant I’ll apply for a Rome Prize Fellowship with the American Academy of Rome.”

The wheels at the conceptual center of the project will be familiar territory for the artist whose metal, stone and ceramic sculptures have been exhibited nationally and internationally. “The wheels are analogous to a world map, to a new world,” he explained. “One particular piece called ‘New World’ incorporates a 7-foot-diameter stone wheel cut from red Colorado sandstone. It’s a metaphor for the conflict between globalization and tribalism.

“The new work will also have those kinds of implications, talking about global political issues, environmental issues and how they’re interrelated.”

He plans to be initiating his grant-funded work later in the summer and into the fall. “I like to share the process with students,” he added.

Having the chance to examine and possibly walk the Chartres labyrinth is particularly intriguing, he said: “It’s a wheel-like maze that’s a metaphor for a spiritual pilgrimage. It also represents the world. It’s another source of inspiration — you have to be there to experience it. Standing in Notre Dame is entirely different from seeing pictures online.”

Audiences don’t need to know the intended meanings of his sculptures to enjoy them, he said: “When people look at my wheels, they might see them as monuments created a long time ago, then installed in a museum. I hope they’re appreciated at many levels. Underneath are our shared concerns for the planet and the future of the world.”

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