Tuesday, April 2, 2013



© David J. Wagner, Ph.D.

I first encountered Chapel's sculpture in a gallery I walked into one evening after a long day skiing in Aspen in 1985.  When I returned home to Wausau, Wisconsin, I contacted the artist and invited him to display his work in the 1985 edition of Birds in Art.  The next year, I took his work on tour in the 1986 exhibit to museums in Seattle, Santa Barbara, Honolulu, and then the Beijing Museum in The People's Republic of China.  That was the start of a long relationship.

In 2001, I invited Chapel to speak at a watershed conference entitled, ANIMAL ART: CONTEXTS, BEST PRACTICE, ISSUES, AN EDUCATIONAL CONFERENCE, presented by the West Valley Art Museum, Sun Cities Museum of Art and co-sponsored by Arizona State University West, The Phoenix Zoo, and The City of Surprise.  The conference began on 9/11 and many of the presentations were moving, including Chapel's.  His presentation, which was entitled, "Serendipity," was included as one of four presentations by a panel of sculptors which also included Burt Brent,  Rosetta, and Charles Allmond, and roundtable discussion by the four, entitled, "Issues Confronting Contemporary Animal Sculptors."

Two decades after I first discovered the work of Chapel for myself, my working relationship with the sculptor will culminate (yes, culminate!, as explained below) with the 2013 - 2015 tour of his work in a new dark, edgy, radical exhibit that my company is producing entitled, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT.  Works by Chapel featured in ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT include BOUND and RISING TIDES.

BOUND © 2009 by Chapel

ARTIST STATEMENT: "BOUND is a graphic exploration of the connectivity of all things. We and our environment are inextricably linked. Modern science has demonstrated beyond all doubt that an effect at the lowest level of life will find its way up the food chain to eventually impact us. The more we destroy, the more uninhabitable this planet will become.

The original inhabitants of this continent understood this at an instinctive level and that is the reason I chose to flavor this sculpture with seasoning of Native American mythology. These ravens, which often represented the Trickster/Creator, are bound to dead trees in a denuded forest. Artists often use mirrors to study the reflection of their work; the mirror image often points up inaccuracies, imperfections, or fallacies, or outright mistakes in the work. In this case I used the mirror image of these bound ravens to show the bound skeletal remains of human bodies; the devastating consequence of ignoring the changing climate and environment around us.

The ravens are cast bronze, mounted to a stainless steel mirror with sand blasted images. The stone on the side is marble."

RISING TIDES © Chapel 2010

ARTIST STATEMENT: "Sea Turtles and other aquatic life are now poised to inherit a huge new portion of our planet...If they can survive the increased pollution that is steadily warming our world. In the present a green sea turtle is ghosting through the ocean, in its element. On the other side the symbol of that turtle is cruising up the side of a flooded building.

I have been diving with these animals in tropical seas for over thirty years. The amount of dead and dying coral has so dramatically increased at the reefs I return to year after year is shocking. The rising sea levels in the South Pacific is already displacing residents of American Territories out there. Our future if we don’t come to our senses soon.

Rising Tides' is cast bronze with a limestone cap, in an edition of twenty one."

This Spring, Chapel will be closing his studio for good (though I hope not), to embark with his wife, Vanessa Kelly, on a voyage of a life time about their sailboat, Two Shadows.  Here's their plan: 

2/27/13 via email:  "The studio will close the end of May and all associated phones and email will end as well. We will keep one cell phone for the few months we are still in US waters, but we depart San Diego for Mexico the end of October. We will have a cell phone as we travel, but it will probably be a prepaid cheapo. We have a long range wifi antenna which can receive hotspots from 7 miles away, so the internet will be accessible most of the time. For voice we will mostly use Skype. Major life change! We have started a sailing blog which we will update regularly with our current position and contact info. The address is: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/vanessakelly/ 
It’s a little sparse right now but once we are finished with preparing the boat (which is all I am doing for the next 4 months), we’ll have time to keep it up. We will leave the marina in June, have 2 weeks in Richmond for new canvas work, then the boatyard for a couple weeks to clean and repaint our bottom. While there we’ll finish new instrument and watermaker installations. From there we will be anchored off Sausalito for a month to fine tune everything, and then do a series of short hops down the coast to Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Morro Bay. We’ll wait there for a suitable weather window to round Point Conception (the most dangerous part of the California coast), and spend a month or so in the Channel Islands, then San Diego to rendezvous with 150 or so other boats participating in the Baha Haha sailing rally. That ends in Cabo and from then on we are unscheduled, though trying for Christmas around Puerto Vallarta . We may do Central America , the Galapagos, and South Pacific . . .  Chapel"

Excerpt from the artist's official biography:  Chapel was born in 1948 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and raised in Grand Junction. He attended Mesa College on an art scholarship, then continued his education in metal smithing (specializing in jewelry) at Colorado State University.   At the age of 22, he moved to Denver where his jewelry-making flourished, and Chapel's creations quickly grew into full-fledged sculptures. Through the support of a sponsor, he created a series of 40 cast bronze sculptures, which were exhibited in a one-man show at the Saks Gallery in Denver; the beginning of many successful shows in Chapel's career. With the desire to learn more about his craft, he took a slight tangent in his path and became Vice President of Quest Foundry, Inc.. This three year immersion in the craft of sculpture, combined with over 35 realistic commissions, resulted in Chapel's distinctive style today.  In 1990 Chapel married Vanessa Kelly and they moved to the Chesapeake Bay to begin training for a world-wide sailing adventure. Inherent in this move was also the opportunity to further study and interpret the people and wildlife living at the edge of land and sea.  After two years on the Chesapeake, the two of them decided they were more at home in the West. In July, 1992 they were offered the opportunity to live on a 330 acre ranch in Northern California, so they packed up and moved back across the entire country. Chapel moved away from birds and figures for awhile, and created several major animal sculptures combining bronze and stainless steel. In the summer of 1995 they moved to the San Francisco Bay area to enable Vanessa to complete her Doctorate. In September of 1996 Harvest Moon, a sculpture of two life-sized Timber Wolves, was installed at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. In 1998 The Nest, a seventeen foot sculpture of an eagle's nest coalescing out of thin air, was commissioned by the town of Breckenridge, Colorado, and installed in June of 2000.  Vanessa became an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in 1998, at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. Shortly after that they moved aboard Two Shadows, a forty-six foot Morgan ketch rigged sailboat, being prepared now for their voyage of a lifetime.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT is a traveling exhibition the purpose of which is to focus public attention and heighten awareness on environmental issues through the power of art. Traditional art generally depicts natural history subjects in all of nature's glory in beautiful, pristine conditions. The paintings, photographs, and sculptures in ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT are different because they confront pressing environmental issues of our time, from land development pressures on wildlife, to water issues and fire and the drought in the West, to the Gulf oil spill, to Global Warming and its impact on the planet, and the dangers of nuclear energy. Comprised of hard-hitting and powerfully evocative art by a variety of artists many of whom have not had their work previously displayed in traveling exhibitions produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT may well be the single most powerful exhibition ever produced by the company.

Produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C.
David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Curator/Tour Director


September 1 - October 31, 2013
Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH

November 19, 2013 - February 4 , 2014
The R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, LA

February 22 - May 4, 2014
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Kalamazoo, MI

June 15 - September 15, 2014 (Pending)
Erie Art Museum
Erie, PA

Oct. 25, 2014 - January 4, 2015
Peninsula Fine Arts Center
Newport News, VA

January 31 - April 26, 2015
Brookgreen Gardens
Murrells Inlet, SC

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