Sculptor Steve Lohman: Here and there

Whimsical and fanciful, Mr. Lohman's dancers form a joyful group. — Photo courtesy of Steve Lohman

This Saturday, Aug. 20, a show of sculptor Steve Lohman’s new work opens at the Shephard Fine ArtSpace in Oak Bluffs. So we know where the peripatetic steel, wire, and wood sculptor will be for the next two weeks. But beyond that — who knows?

He could just as likely be working at his own new Big Bunny Fine Art Gallery, just off Bourbon Street in New Orleans, or somewhere around the country doing one of the large public or private pieces that have become his specialty. (He’s done commissioned pieces for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, Guggenheim Museum Store, Spalding International in Las Vegas, and Potamkin Motor Corporation in Miami.)

But his attention this week is focused on his show at Shephard Fine ArtSpace.

“A new show requires new work,” he says, “and I often don’t know what I’m going to do, so the process requires a reflective moment: deciding what I want to do that I haven’t done, then meeting the deadline.”

Mr. Lohman’s steel line art creations range from small wire “sketches” — single lines of steel twisted and swirled into animated figures — or 15-foot-long steel wire sculptures of musicians, dancers, golfers, and acrobats. All are distinctive, imaginative, witty, and lyrical.

“What’s nice about steel is that you can work quickly and it doesn’t have to be painted,” he says. “This time of year I always work on the beach with some pliers and lots of wire. My beach friends often end up as models. I have a reward system for myself: finish one more piece, then I can go in the water.”

Mr. Lohman is enthusiastic about showing his pieces at Shephard. “It has lots of big wall space that can handle my larger pieces. We’ll be showing one of my favorites — a large piece of a jazz club in half-inch stainless steel.

“I’m fortunate to be getting a lot of large-size commissions right now. I’m working on a large bird for the show. I don’t do a lot of animals, but I was looking at a lot of older sketches for ideas and this appealed to me. It’ll be a seven-foot piece in five-eighths inch stainless steel.”

Mr. Lohman explains his decision to open a gallery in New Orleans, saying he likes the culture (his WVVY radio music show is called Vineyard Gumbo), and he seems to thrive on new experiences.

“I have a lovely, simple life but I seem to like it when it all gets exciting,” he says. “I’ve never done this before. I was a full-time artist for 30 years. I mounted and curated shows but never had a gallery.”

Mr. Lohman believes New Orleans shares common traits with the Vineyard. “There’s authenticity there. There are lots of locals, people who are from there, just as there are on the Island,” he says. “It isn’t like New York or L.A., where everyone’s from someplace else. And there is an intensity for the place, just as we have here.”

Mr. Lohman has been showing his art in New Orleans and roaming the city for 20 years. He was instrumental in bringing 30 musicians, chefs, and artists here in 2006 for a post-Katrina fundraiser.

“New Orleans is having a renaissance: new galleries, clubs, and restaurants,” he says. “The city is flourishing culturally now, though a lot of rebuilding is still to be done and a lot of neighborhoods are struggling to come back. But there are more galleries, clubs, and restaurants in New Orleans now than there were before the storm. It seems that artists are always the first to come back after a disaster.”

His Big Bunny Gallery is located on a quiet side street in the Latin Quarter, and features about a dozen artists, many from the Island, including Traegor DiPietro, Lil Finnigan-Allen, Omar and Sheila Rayyan, Greg Giegucz, and Jenifer Strachan, he said. Mr. Lohman named his gallery Big Bunny because — well, he wanted to. “No special reason, we just liked the name.”

His schedule will likely include five months on-Island and then in New Orleans, with time for a new project: designing all the graphics, including bottle labels, for Orpheus Wines in Sonoma, California.”

He says, “I’m not sure why I’m doing all this. “Whenever I’m feeling settled, I have to stir the pot. I guess I’m a devotee of ‘next.'”

Opening reception of new work by Steve Lohman, Saturday, Aug. 20, 4 pm at Shephard Fine ArtSpace, 8 Uncas Avenue, Oak Bluffs. The show runs through Friday, Sept. 2. 508-693-8001.