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Q&A: Meet the artist

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You’d have to work pretty hard to miss Robert Pulley’s oversized creativity throughout Columbus.

His 11 molded figures, “Ancestral Way,” line the lawn along the one-way Third Street toward the western edge of town, and in the auditorium at Columbus North High School, where he taught art for 32 years, “Gift of the Sage,” welcomes visitors at the entrance.

And at IUPUC, “Emergent Force” stands its ground in the IUPUC Sculpture Garden.

“The sculptures reflect qualities that I recognize in nature and that strike a chord within me,” he said.

They strike a chord with passersby, too. The Third Street work became popular with motorists and others immediately after its installation in 2006.

And the Ogilville resident’s audience stretches beyond Bartholomew County. Next month, he will be part of Chicago Sculpture International show in the Windy City’s Lincoln Park Conservatory. Later in October comes the presentation of a nine-foot, bronze sculpture “Turning the Soil,” to the town of Oregon, Ill. — the result of a national competition he won last year.

How did you get started in sculpture?

I didn’t take art in high school but in college I took a design class as an elective. I felt guilty having such a good time in college, but soon changed my major to art education.

A friend and I started a pottery business, but I soon started manipulating my wheel-thrown pots. Then I started coil building sculptural vessels. Then I abandoned the vessel for sculptural form.

What does your art most reflect?

My love of nature and nature’s forms. The human figure and body language is nearly always present to some degree. Also, there is a sense of geologic age, and a sense of latent energy.

What do you most want to convey?

I have never consciously tried to portray a specific thing in my sculpture. My work is an act of seeking after form that inspires a sense of wonder in me. I hope some folks are fed by my work.

How long do most of your pieces take?

The idea of time spent is hard to answer. A cup can be minutes, a sculpture can be many hours. A public scale sculpture can keep me busy for months.

Who/what inspires you most artistically?

When I was young, I had many influences from my mom to friends and teachers to many historical and contemporary artists: Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, Shoji Hamada, Peter Voulkos and Stephen DeStaebler to name a very few.

Your greatest achievement?

I think my greatest achievement was teaching art full-time for 32 years, raising two wonderful kids with my wife (Nancy Pulley) and simultaneously keeping a rather prolific career in art alive.

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