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Figurative sculptor Lucian Goff is intrigued by viewers' responses to the nude figure. He finds that a partially clothed female figure draws more attention than a naked form.
The artist's newest work is based on this concept and what he describes as "the tension found in the interaction between the viewer and the objectified female."
It also contributed to garnering Goff the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art's Wardlaw Prize for Excellence in Three-Dimensional Art for a graduating senior. Lyme residents Dr. Stephen Wardlaw and Lynne Wardlaw present the award annually.
A resident of Essex, Goff was born in Springfield, Ill., in 1978. After completing an apprenticeship, at 18 he became a full-time glass engraver. He moved to northern California in 2001 where he created large-scale commercial and residential art glass pieces and pursued his interest in drawing and painting.
In 2009, Goff completely switched his focus to figurative sculpture and says that's what brought him to LACFA, which is renowned for its tradition of figurative and representational art.
Goff's interest in representational work comes from "always being attracted to outdated things in a weird way," he says. "I used to do early traditional glass techniques … and I think it's interesting to take something people have discarded and do something contemporary with it."
He says he's enjoyed working with clay since the age of 12 and it wasn't a conscious decision to become a sculptor.
"I like that you move around while you work. If you're working on a painting, you're fixed where you standing. (Sculpting) is a lot more physical than painting."
He also likes the challenge of translating something figurative into clay.
"It's an interesting kind of process to go through," he says.
The idea of the semi-clothed figures, Goff says, came from students constantly working from the nude model in school.
"I started thinking about the idea of why we're obsessed with staring at naked people and sculpting them and painting them … and that we've had nude statuary for a few thousand years. There's something interesting about that. Especially sculpting a woman-the objectification of it. People looking when they're not supposed to be looking.
"I wanted to create a sense of making people aware they're looking at the piece," he says of his newest work. "Having the jacket and not anything else. If she was completely nude, you wouldn't be as aware of it."
Goff sculpted his recent pieces in clay, made a silicone mold, and cast them in a material called Forton, which is similar to plaster but a lot harder. He used textures and finishes to create contrast between skin and clothing and says he's hoping to provide a tactile experience with the varied combination of modeled clay form, acrylic, oil and lacquer paint.
Another challenge Goff met by implementing color and texture was making the jacket appear soft and puffy, despite it being as unyielding as cement.
"With light shining on it, you get that fooling the eye effect," he notes.
Goff points out that the work is finely finished without visible tool marks because of his focus on the "direct observation of the object without reminders of its process of creation."
He says, "I'm interested in the way that a statue can almost become a surrogate human with a presence that strikes its viewer in provocative ways."
Now that he's graduated, Goff's goal is to keep making similar pieces, which he plans to create in his new art space in New London's 38 Greene Street Studios.
He is grateful to have won the $5,000 Wardlaw prize, which also was awarded to Jeremy Horseman of Maryland and Emma Kindall of Minnesota, who shared the Prize for Excellence in Two-Dimensional Art.
"This award was a big deal," Goff says. "It's so hard to make ends meet as a sculptor. It would be impossible to keep going without this kind of philanthropy."
What: Sculpture by Lucian Goff
Where: Chauncey Stillman & Sill House Gallery at Lyme Academy College, 84 Lyme St., Old Lyme
When: An opening reception takes place July 26 from 5 to 7 p.m., during the Old Lyme Midsummer Festival. Runs through Aug. 10.
Info: www.lymeacademy.edu or 860-434-5232. To arrange to see the artist's work in his New London studio, email firstname.lastname@example.org.