First published: Spring 2003
‘Nobody knows why I made them... Not even me. This work just came to me naturally. I started one day in 1948 and have been doing a few a year ever since....’
By the time Fred Smith retired from his life as a lumberjack in 1948, he had 62 years of life experience under his belt, and a well-spring of thoughts and ideas that were ripe for expression. He began constructing a series of commemorative monuments around his home and his tavern in Phillips, Wisconsin, learning intuitively as he worked. The project grew into a monumental spatial narrative of interrelated, life-size and larger-than-life sculptures and tableaux, with over 250 narrations of local, regional, national, international, and deeply personal histories.
Smith’s chosen medium was concrete. He ornamented early works with painted scenes and bas-relief glass embellishments, and created high-relief decorated surfaces, using glass, auto-reflectors, mirrors, and other found objects. Building architectural and sculptural environments of textured and/or embellished concrete was already established as a vernacular medium in the United States decades before Smith began working; the Garden of Eden, the Watts Towers, the Grotto of the Redemption, and the Dickeyville Grotto were all built between 1907 and 1954, and remain some of the outstanding art environments pioneering this technique. Fred Smith took the genre to another level, creating a sculptural masterwork which he called the Wisconsin Concrete Park.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #42