Take a walk along the sculpture trail between the Dickinson County Nature Center and the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, and you will encounter eight of Bill Lieb’s nature-inspired metal sculptures.
From “The Birder” that resides in the Kenue Park prairie outside the nature center to “Edward Hopper” that sits behind the art center, all of the pieces exhibit a relationship between the pieces and the environment they reside in.
The idea for “Edward Hopper” came about when the Spirit Lake artist was doing a site walk. He kept brushing at his legs while walking around the wetland by the art center because grasshoppers were jumping all around.
Ah ha, a grasshopper design.
The sculpture then began to take on a life of its own as the form addressed the elements of light, exhibiting what happens in direct sunlight, shadow, reflection and even shows different intensities of light.
The public can view models and photos of Lieb’s nature-related sculptures in an exhibit now open in the eARTh exhibit area at the Dickinson County Nature Center.
“All of these, except one, are kinetic; the wind activates them,” Lieb said. “I love that part. I think it draws your attention to it because it moves. When it moves, you start to think about wind and breezes and the nature of it.”
When Lieb begins a site-specific sculpture, like “The Birder,” which sits outside the Nature Center, his plans start out with a site walk. The former architect analyzes the problem, gets a feel of the nature and scale of the site and then does some freehand sketches of his sculpture ideas.
Lieb’s freehand sketches then turn into computer drawings, and then the plans are cut out of cardboard. These models are on display at the nature center through September with photos of the completed sculptures.
Lieb’s computer drawings are given to a steel fabricator who laser cuts the designs out of steel, and then Lieb either works with a welder to complete the sculptures or he does the welding in his own shop.
One of Lieb’s newest sculptures, Bird Series No. 3, is on display outside the nature center. The kinetic bird series has five sculptures that have all been completed since September 2015. One of his other kinetic sculptures, called “Summer’s Surprise,” is easily recognizable in the area because it makes its home along the bike trail on Highway 71 in Okoboji. The yellow pinwheels in the sculpture are activated by the wind and also represent wildflowers in bloom in the summer, although this sculpture is in bloom all year round.
Lieb will give a presentation on the exhibit during an opening reception to be held in his honor 5-7 p.m. Thursday, July 14, with a gallery talk at 6 p.m. Appetizers and wine will be served.
People will also get the chance to learn from Lieb during a special class held 10 a.m. -4 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, at the nature center.
The class will begin with a walk to the Pearson Lakes Art Center, along which Lieb has eight sculptures. He will talk about his sculptures and how nature has influenced each design. Then students will head back to the nature center to eat a sack lunch, which they should bring with.
That afternoon, Lieb will provide students with pieces of wood, metal and foam core from which they will create their own abstract sculpture models that will depict flight.
“I hope they see a connection between nature and sculpture and how nature can inform a design,” Lieb said. “If you look at nature enough it starts suggesting solutions to problems.”
The class will cost $15 per person and has a maximum of 10 students. Contact Lieb at 712-336-4410 or 712-330-7295 to pre-register. The subject matter will be tailored to adult students or youth accompanied by an adult.
The final eARTh exhibit area artist of the year will be Barbara Tagami. Her nature art will be on display October-December, with an artist reception 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6. She will hold a kids origami class 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Oct. 15, and an adult nature art class 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19.
For more information on the eARTh exhibit area or events at the Dickinson County Nature Center, visit the nature center's website or call 712-336-6352. You can also keep up with the latest happenings on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.