A career of creating

Friday, December 17, 2004

Dr. Edwin Smith has been making sculpture for more than 40 years now. His commissioned work can be found in many private collections, including those of state Supreme Court Justice Stephen Limbaugh of Cape Girardeau and Dr. Neil Young in Rochester, Minn. But Smith's work can be found all over the place.

He created the religious symbols in the gable on the front of the Evangelical United Church of Christ on Ellis Street in Cape Girardeau. The late Jake Wells, then head of the department of art at Southeast Missouri State University, commissioned that job.

Smith's "Circles in Motion," a painted metal sculpture, is located in the periodicals section in Kent Library at the university, where he is an art professor.

His 15-foot-tall "Freedom Bell" sculpture, made for the Girl Scout camp at Cherokee Ridge in Sam A. Baker State Park, is used to summon the girls into the dining hall. Four of his works reside at the Missouri Veterans Home.

The 31 pieces in a recent retrospective at the Juden Schoolhouse Gallery demonstrated the breadth of Smith's work. He owns the art gallery, a former feed store located at the intersection of County Road 635 and West Cape Rock Drive in Cape Girardeau.

The work in the show dated back to his first wooden sculpture, a swallow completed in 1963 while he was a student at the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley.

Smith's love for the modern abstraction of British sculptor Henry Moore's work is apparent in his own, especially the wooden pieces he has carved and smoothed over the years. "I liked the way he rounded off the heads of the figures without giving them details like eyes and noses and mouths. Yet you could look at them and tell if they were adults or children, male or female," Smith said.

"They did not have clothes, but they were not at all vulgar ... they were just figures."

Smith completed a series of walnut sculptures depicting pregnant women. They were carved from beams made available to him from an old log cabin on the University Farm.

Farms have always played a role in Smith's life. He grew up on one in northern Missouri. After going off to college and studying sculpture, he came home to his dad's farm to cut walnut, cedar and catalpa logs and put them in the barn to season.

He now has his own small farm populated with donkeys and llamas just outside the Cape Girardeau city limits. He built a new studio at the farm where he can carve wood on the west side and do arc welding on the other.

Metal, usually mild steel or corten steel, is the other medium he works in. He likes carving in wood in the winter and working with welders in the summer. "You have such a sense of power welding metal together," he says. "... You can make big pieces strong enough you can drive a Caterpillar tractor over it and it wouldn't break."

He has had a one-man show at the Parthenon, a museum in Nashville, Tenn. More recently he has become associated with the Wiford Gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, N.M. Smith is working on five or six pieces he wants to finish in time to take to Santa Fe for spring break.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 121

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