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The Sunflower

‘Damn, I’m an artist’: Three sculptors share inspiration at WAM artist talks

Brianna Cook
A sculpture of Hester Prynne is featured in Lesley Dill’s sculpture exhibit, available at the Ulrich Museum of Art until Dec. 2. Dill recently spoke at the Wichita Art Museum alongside Beth Lipman and John Douglas Powers.

On Nov. 17, three artists gave talks discussing the process of creating their art and the inspiration behind their work at the Wichita Art Museum.

Gallery Talk: John Douglas Powers

A sculpture by John Douglas Powers has been permanently installed in the Wichita Art Museum (WAM), starting Nov. 18. Tucked away in its very own gallery, “Confluence” is a kinetic, or moving, sculpture representing the natural landscape of Wichita and the Flint Hills.  

Powers discussed “Confluence” at the talk. He dived into the many influences which led him to create the piece, including growing up in rural Indiana and working with farm machinery, a skill that he would later utilize in his kinetic sculptures. 

Powers also recalled his journey to choosing art as his career and realizing he could succeed in it.  

“The way that you become an artist basically is like waking up one day and saying ‘Damn, I’m an artist,’ and then you start doing artists things,” he said.

Powers said that “Confluence” represents many different aspects of the area and he wanted to reflect this when naming the piece. He encouraged his audience to create their own interpretation of the sculpture. 

“‘Confluence’ is, in general terms, a moment of unity of things, but that moment of unity happens after a lot of a lot of tension, and a lot of turbulence,” he said. 

“Confluence” was commissioned by WAM. Powers said the museum’s director and curator reached out to him about the piece and he visited Wichita to see the museum and its surrounding area. While visiting, he also shot footage of the sky in the Flint Hills, which is projected behind the sculpture. 

In Conversation: Artists Lesley Dill and Beth Lipman

Following Power’s gallery talk, two artists and friends took the stage to talk to each other about their work.

Beth Lipman’s sculpture, “Living History,” has been on display inside the entrance of WAM since 2022. Lipman said the sculpture was inspired by the natural landscape of the area as well as the historical objects in the museum. 

Lesley Dill’s uses textiles and text to create her sculptures. Her exhibition, “Wilderness: Light Sizzles Around Me,” features a collection of textile sculptures representing historical figures. 

The two artists first introduced themselves and their art to the audience then sat down to discuss the similarities and differences in their work, as well as how they learn from each other. 

“When I read about your work … something that I’ve never known about clicks in me, and I have the pleasure of, for a moment, moving beyond my own understanding of the world because your understanding of the world is so different,” Dill said to Lipman. 

Dill and Lipman discussed their processes when creating a piece of art. They shared that they sometimes throw away pieces of work before they’re finished. 

“For me, doubt is a tool that I use to negotiate a path forward in the practice and to give myself a test or a structure in which to work in order to make sure that the work is absolutely the best that I can possibly do,” Lipman said. 

An audience question prompted them to share how they met: in the office of an art dealer. 

“I was so nervous,” Lipman said. “I’ve admired your work for so long, for decades.” 

Dill said she would like to have a conversation with Lipman for an audience again. 

“This is the first time that we’ve ever talked like this,” Dill said. “So I’m interested, in the back of my mind, how would we talk on a different night?”  

Dill’s “Wilderness: Light Sizzles Around Me” is on display at the Ulrich museum until Dec. 2.

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About the Contributors
Ainsley Smyth
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. Smyth is a sophomore communications major with an emphasis in journalism and media productions. Her dream job is to travel back in time 30 years and then be a reporter for Rolling Stone. Smyth uses she/her pronouns.
Brianna Cook
Brianna Cook, Photographer
Brianna Cook is a second-year photographer for The Sunflower. She is a sophomore biology major from Wichita, Kansas. When not taking photos, Cook enjoys leather working and after graduation, hopes to work for the park service. Cook uses she/her pronouns.

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