'Gritty' sculptures adorn local library

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comNovember 23, 2012 

When Debra Owen thinks about art, she thinks of metals, chemicals and fire.

"I like the effects of it, I like the grittiness of it," Owen said.

The latest artist on exhibition at the Los Banos Library, Owen's abstract sculptures carry a theme of the human figure and metalwork.

One untitled piece, which resembles a man's torso, is made of 1/16-inch steel plates sheared with a plasma cutter, welded in place and oxidized.

"I love working in steel, I'd love to weld more," Owen said. "I don't have a facility to do that now, but soon."

The sculpture "Pete Townshend" -- named because it resembles The Who guitarist's windmill strum -- is made of twisted steel rods welded together and decorated with mesh, latex, paint and plaster.

"This one evolved," she said, adding she didn't sketch it beforehand. "I could have been listening to The Who too, I don't remember."

A native of Los Banos, Owen said she paints and draws but sculpts most often. She said she grew up in Bakersfield, but left at age 20 to go to school in Norway. Shorter stints in Lake Tahoe and Santa Barbara preceded living in Hawaii for 15 years, she said.

As a student at Monterey Peninsula College, Owen first got into sculpting which she attributes to professors.

"I've had a lot of good teachers that are really great sculptors that inspire me," she said.

She plans to go back to school at Sonoma State University, she said.

Owen teaches children's art classes with the Los Banos Arts Council, and some private lessons.

Also on display are bronze-casted figures, made by Owen, that show the process of lost-wax casting, a complicated multi-stepped process. Essentially, Owen makes a figure in wax or clay, and covers the figure in a rubber or silicone on the way to making a fireproof mold. The wax is then melted out, the hollow space is filled with molten bronze and cools into a bronze piece of art.

Owen said as a teenager she visited Italy with her family and was struck by Renaissance artists.

"I just absolutely fell in love with Michaelangelo," she said, adding she remembers his unfinished slave pieces making an impression.

Owen's work is scheduled to be on display through the end of the year.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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