Wednesday, November 23, 2016

To Celebrate the Second Annual Burning Foot Beer Festival, Lee S. Brown and Chip VanderWier Sculpted the Burning Hop Tower.

Tomorrow is the last Saturday of Summer 2016, and more than four thousand Michigan beer lovers are about to celebrate Burning Foot, a beer festival at Pere Marquette Beach. Drink cold beer and keep from Burning your Feet in flip-flops. Meanwhile, sculptors Lee S. Brown and Chip VanderWier are planning to burn the everlasting hop. Seriously. Burning Man burns the man and Burning Foot will yearly burn the Hop. VanderWier and Brown are clearly the most active sculptors living and working in Muskegon, and it's Unruly and Pigeon Hill beer that keeps them working long into the night. Thirst quenched, desire unquenchable. Last night, Brown and I chatted during the opening of Nancy Crow's Bull's Eye Quilt show called, "Circular Abstractions". Brown talks the talk but he also sculpts the sculpture. He wanted to tip me off about the Hop Statue he erected with VanderWier. I was gratified that the man who prepared the Nancy Crow show in the great gallery had a moment to talk on such a big night.

I promised to go see it Friday afternoon. Now I'm disappointed I won't see it burning at night. The instant icon is surmounted by a hop blossom constructed of metal leaves, unmistakeable for an artichoke but similar. VanderWier has been obsessed with Michigan's newest artisan crop, shown by a series of four panels celebrating brewing. The four are given proud exhibition in Unruly's tap room near Rebel Pies. Brown transforms wood into fetish objects. His eight support posts, spear tipped, remind one of the ancient posts of the sundial at Cahokia Mounds, just off the Mississippi River near St Louis. Lashed to stakes at bases, this teepee like structure easily passed fire and safety inspection surely. Each post of charred cedar has been assembled of three lengths, secured by metal joints. Nothing is going to buckle so don't worry. Brown and VanderWier have teams of engineers and installers who do it right.

Thanks to the staff of Happenstance Art House, I studied pinch pot making with VanderWier last week for a song. There's a quiet team of philanthropists who fund the happenings at Happenstance. VanderWier had fourteen of us happily working clay successfully in minutes. He demonstrated techniques by transforming two pots into an orb. Then the orb became a cube in his playful hands and then became a dragon whistle with feet, ears and mouthpiece added. Both Brown and VanderWier demonstrate that relaxed playfulness that is the magic in a sculptor's hands. I'm glad the pair choose to play in Muskegon.

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