As the weather warms and gray skies give way to blue, sculptor Sue Taves can typically be found outside of Freeland Art Studios amid a cloud of rock dust. Her focus and concentration are steady amid the whirring cacophony of power tools she uses to cut, drill, shape, form, smooth and polish rock.
Surrounding Taves (rhymes with “waves”) is a veritable garden of art works. Some are completed, others are forms still emerging from the rocks that are strewn haphazardly about the yard. Fluid, smooth and graceful lines compete with smooth planes and jagged edges. Taves’ sculpture is oftentimes abstract, sometimes figurative. In the past, she dedicated much of her effort to interpreting the human form.
For instance her piece titled “Soaring” depicts a woman’s body seemingly casting off the stone that holds her back. The woman’s posture recalls the heroic and iconic Winged Victory of Samothrace. And like the famed Greek sculpture, Taves’ heroine is without arms or head, which makes the woman symbolic and universal.
These days, though, she’s more likely to be working on something inspired by nature. Soon after coming here, Taves began incorporating themes like rain, wind and waves into her artwork. She sometimes goes back again and again to a particular theme, expanding on different aspects of a given natural phenomenon.
In her series “Wind,” Taves’ challenge was to render an unseen natural phenomenon in 3-D. She chose things affected by the wind; flags, weather vanes, clouds and the patterns one might see in wind-drifted sand dunes.
Some of her works are free-form, inspired by the stones themselves, which come to her from all over the world. She says that she’s always been drawn to rock and can’t take a walk without appraising and appreciating the rocks along the way.
Taves moved to Whidbey Island from California in 2004 with her partner, graphic artist Jan Shannon. They’d visited the island on numerous occasions and found the pastoral, natural setting and thriving arts scene to their liking.
“People on Whidbey Island are very open and welcoming. There’s a creative atmosphere here,” she said. “It’s a place where creativity is really valued and where the community supports the arts.”
Leaving behind her career as a physical therapist, Taves initially dedicated herself nearly full-time to creating sculpture. Today, she splits her efforts between stonework and putting together issues of Whidbey Life magazine (www.whidbeylifemagazine.org). She founded the online (and soon to be printed), arts-focused publication as a means to promote and publicize the myriad artists who work on Whidbey Island.
“Our intention with the magazine is to increase participation in arts events and support the arts as a value,” she said. “It’s a vehicle to encourage people to include art in their lives.”
You can see Taves’ artwork at the Brackenwood Gallery in downtown Langley, the Matzke Fine Art Gallery & Sculpture Park on Camano Island, or at the Freeland Art Studios (1660 Roberta Ave., Freeland), a stop on the Whidbey Art Trail (http://whidbeyarttrail.com/ArtistPages/FreelandArtStudios.html).