Earlier this week, Merriweather Post Pavilion unveiled a new addition to the venue’s 40-acre concert space: three sculptures commemorating musicians sacred to Merriweather’s 50+ year tenure. The sculptures, created by world-renowned French artist Bernard Pras, depict artists Dolly Parton, Miles Davis and Robert Plant.
Without the photos in this article, explaining the sculptures to those unfamiliar with Pras’ work might leave some confused. When we say Dolly Parton’s hair is made of brass instruments and Robert Plant’s chest is a wheelbarrow, it’s not exactly an intuitive picture. The best way to experience the new sculptures is, of course, to see all the details up close and in person—and, so we’ve heard, you’ll also see a few easter eggs attributed to each artist’s career.
We caught up with Pras to talk about his method and his visit to the DMV. In true French style, the answers are short and to-the-point. It makes sense, really—Pras’ work speaks for itself.
We are thrilled to unveil the latest additions to the Merriweather Post Pavilion grounds. These sculptures, depicting legends Robert Plant, Dolly Parton, and Miles Davis, were created by world-renowned French anamorphic sculptor Bernard Pras. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/ekYM96isdw
— Merriweather Post (@MerriweatherPP) June 13, 2022
District Fray: I read that you sourced elements for your designs from local spots around the DMV. Where did you go? Did you use any DMV-specific objects?
Pras: We went to the local recycling center as well as local thrift stores in Howard County and Baltimore (Second Chance, Goodwill). We also received some items from the venue itself: an old trailer, a pickup truck, a golf cart, a motorcycle, etc. And also some brass instruments from a local music school.
What was the object that started the inspiration of each sculpture?
The starting object for Miles Davis was the bumper of the pickup truck that was on display in the backyard. That piece made the arch of the back. For Robert Plant, the wheelbarrow made the shape and color of the torso. For Dolly, a wooden object made the teeth perfectly.
What’s the process like? Do you find objects first, then put it all together, or is it more touch-and-go, re-evaluating (and perhaps revisiting shops) as you create?
The work is done in several stages. First we search for large shapes. It’s then refined by a new search for objects down to the details.
What was the experience like being in Maryland and creating these sculptures for Merriweather?
The stay at Merriweather was exclusively work-related with some pleasant evening incursions into local spots, such as Old Ellicott City.
Turning-trash-into-treasure has important implications, especially in our current climate disaster. Is there any environmental ethos to your work?
I like the symbolism of abandoned objects. I like the idea that despite their downgrading they still have a power of wonder. My work can be seen from the angle of environmental issues but my primary intention is plastic.
After so many years of this work, how do you continue to find inspiration?
Inspiration often just comes from work. I always have the impression of starting from scratch with vague knowledge from my previous experiences.
With so many great shows coming up this summer at Merriweather, there’s already several reasons to visit. But now, you might want to arrive just a bit earlier to view the sculptures and celebrate with the venue commemorating artists that make the Pavilion sing.
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