Lorri Acott’s first public art commission could not have been more significant. Sure, it was her first, but it was more than that. Her sculpture, “Peace,” pictured above was to be installed in Evergreen, Colorado, on the grounds of Mt. Evans Hospice.
What made this so special to the sculptor was that years earlier her brother Steve died of brain cancer. An Oregon hospice helped the entire family through the process and the loss of the 35 year old.
She knew she was right for the sculpture commission, but did the selection committee?
“I really wanted to get this commission and create something that would uplift people who were sad and struggling,” she explains. “But I didn’t know if I would have a chance. All I knew was that I felt so strongly that I was right for the project.”
Clearly, they did. “Peace” with her outstretched arms and the origami birds creating an arc between her hands fills people with hope, encouragement…and yes, peace.
Since that installation many years ago, Lorri has been busy creating, teaching, and installing works around the globe.
Some artists have a distinct passion and direction early on. Others figure it out later. Lorri knew she wanted to make a difference and to help the world be a better place for all of us to live in. But being a sculptor was not the first course her path took.
With a Master Degree in special education, Lorri taught in the public schools for many years. It was during that time she was exposed to raku pottery. Something clicked. She began sculpting and even got licensed to teach in the art departments of Fort Collins, Colorado.
She was sculpting incessantly, and getting results and confirmation that this was indeed her path.
She thinks her transition from teaching to art came about in part because of the relatively immediate results art offers. “When you are a teacher, you don’t see the final result of what you have done. But the idea that I was actually able, with my own two hands, to create something that could be beautiful really appealed to me. For artists, there is a quick turnaround.”
Not having the finances to go the traditional route of casting in bronze may have figured into her success. She began experimenting–the hallmark of many artists. She tended toward elongated figures, some notice a resemblance to the Italian artist Alberto Giacometti. This style didn’t work well with traditional ceramics.
Rather than be discouraged, she continued to experiment and discover paperclay. Voila, a match made in heaven!
Once a piece has been successfully created using the paperclay process she can then have it molded and cast in bronze. The benefit to bronze is the durability and that she can retain all the essential qualities of her paperclay original: including cracks.
Much of Acott’s work includes symbolism
Take PEACE, for example. For Acott-Fowler, the figure’s long legs symbolize man’s ability to rise above life’s challenges. The big feet represent the idea of being grounded. “If you can have your feet on the ground and if you have really long legs, you can have your head in the clouds,” the sculptor explains. The cracks in the piece refer to the idea that everyone is vulnerable and has suffered some pain, and they are also a reminder to be kinder and gentler with each other. The origami-like cranes symbolize hope and peace, while the raised arms are about releasing that hope and peace into the world.
Acott-Fowler still gets a little emotional when she talks about PEACE. She recalls that throughout the creation of the sculpture, she felt her brother’s presence. “It felt like it was a tribute to him, and he felt really close to me during that time,” she recalls. “My two other brothers came for the dedication in October. When I called my parents to tell them about the installation ceremonies, I told them that all three of my brothers were there.”
Conversations with Myself is another piece by Acott that is filled with symbolism and connects with viewers on a deep, visceral level. As the young man in the photo above recognizes, we each have a “mini me” inside and deserve to look one another in the face. Even if that means bending over.