DECATUR — As a young girl, Edwardsville resident Snail Scott liked to play with her crayons, but in a way as unconventional as her own name. Instead of seeing them as drawing implements, to Scott the crayons were her own canvas.
“I would take pins from my mom’s sewing box and use them to carve the crayons into little shapes,” said the sculptor, whose work will be on display throughout August at the Decatur Area Arts Council’s Madden Arts Center. “That was more interesting to me than what you could draw with them.”
This childhood approach is indicative of the perspective of Scott, a sculptor whose primary interest in the arts is attempting to visualize the creative impulse to shape things itself. She studied architecture in college, deeming fine art not to be “responsible enough” at the time, before being inexorably drawn back to her love for sculpture. Her exhibition, “Artefactual,” will hold its opening reception at the arts council from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday as part of a one-time “First Wednesday” gallery walk to avoid competition with the Decatur Celebration.
“I was getting into good exhibitions and selling pieces so I let myself at least take a shot at making a living from art,” she said. “I said ‘If I’m going to starve, I might as well do what I’ve always wanted to do.’”
Scott was always drawn to sculpture due to its permanency and physical presence, saying that the way an object “cohabits the viewer’s space is utterly compelling.” This “going-nowhere physical presence” is something the artist simply feels she can’t create with a two-dimensional piece.
“When you’re done, you have an absolutely real object,” Scott said. “In one way it seems almost magical, but at the same time it’s the opposite of magic because it’s gritty and pragmatic and grounded in the real world.”
Scott’s works often reflect the aspects of human physiology that she naturally reveres as a sculptor, particularly arms and hands. These are the tools with which people influence their own world, and this is the quality that Scott tries to convey.
“One of the things that defines us as human beings is our ability to manipulate our reality and create the reality that we wish we had,” she said. “That’s where my engineering and architectural imagery come from. Mechanical things like gears and levers and pulleys or structures like bridges and arches draw me in because they have strong visual components.”
This is a trait that has run in Scott’s family for some time. Both her father and sister are engineers, and her grandfather was an inventor of innovated farm equipment. As she describes it, “I don’t think he ever owned an unmodified tool.”
“He didn’t take for granted that an object should be used as it was given to him,” Scott said. “I suppose I always had this same sense that reality was never a given. That’s why my work focuses on the transformative aspects of what the human hand is capable of.”
Scott hopes that elements of her work will appeal to all audiences, although none of them may draw the same conclusions as the sculptor.
“I don’t expect anyone to necessarily take from it what was in my head when I made it,” she said. “I try to use imagery that is direct enough to communicate but open-ended enough that a thoughtful viewer can take away many impressions, none of them wrong.”