DEfining gravity

By James Buckley Galloway

In his series, SunAthelo, (Strive Together), Douglas Turner creates sculptures that define gravity, literally, and figuratively. Gravity as a phenomena, represents a force, its effect, the only visible proof of its existence. Working from models, but also sourced images and his imagination, Turner creates convincing formations rooted in both the anatomical, and universal laws of Newtonian reason. Embracing each other, male and female partners hang on to gymnast rings, which hover in space, unchained to the earthen realm, though locked in place by the gravity that governs both their movements and forms. The figures’ power is defined by their won battle with gravity. Floating for eternity, their existence is charged by the negative space surrounding them, the same space that gravity occupies.

Turner, reinterprets the classical Hellenistic modes of figuration with a shift in scale. Chiseled with muscles and popping veins, these 1:4 scale modeled figures have not lost their monumentality. Turner borrows from the mannerist poses of Michelangelo, while omitting a key element, the pedestal or resting place. By removing the ground itself, he elevates the figures into a psychological realm, one of balance and levitation versus clumsiness and collapse.

Though gendered, there appears to be an equal balance between the sexes, as Turner so eloquently describes, “each sex provides a yin and yang to the piece.” Shrouded in what appears to be dancer’s leotards, the defining sexual organs are left unexposed and thus leave the forms in a state of Edenic innocence. The work is playful, and lyrical, defined by the grace of the poses.

Through Turner’s work, I am reminded of the striking piece by Eric Fischl, ‘Tumbling Woman’ (2002) created in remembrance for those who had fallen during the attacks on 9/11. Unlike Turner, Fischl’s work illustrates gravity in a menacing light, for his fallen woman, lays lifeless, glued to the ground, her impact, and her death. Fischl’s figure looses the fight against gravity, and thus removes power from her seemingly beautiful, yet grotesque and mangled form. In light of Turner’s use of a square welded tube as a mounting device for his figures, I am reminded of Jonathan Borofsky’s whimsical work, ‘Walking to the Sky,’ (2004) in particular. Though more playful and cartoonist in style, Borofsky imbues the same sense of balance which creates an overall oneness, a harmony, and the piece’s intended feeling.

Turner’s other work is concerned with mammoth Styrofoam attractions. They are reminiscent of theme park monuments, though they are rooted in the classical forms which Turner knows and loves so well. Though made out of a lightweight material, their own construction weighs tons.

In the future, Turner hopes to move his SunAthelo series into the realm of the godly, making larger than life sculptures that exemplify their power over gravity and their impressive takeover of place, while providing the viewer with a sublime and hyperreal interaction with the ‘mighty.’

Douglas Turner is an artist & sculptor living in Santa Monica, California. He studied Fine Art and Communication at the University of New Mexico and then moved to Hollywood to work in motion pictures effects. Over 30 films feature his work – including “Beetlejuice,” “Ace Ventura,” “Star Trek VI” and “Judge Dredd” – plus TV shows, commercials, magazines, amusement parks, and Planet Hollywood Restaurants.

Mr. Turner has returned to fine art bringing an abundance of ideas, technical expertise, and a strong sense of character and drama. His sculptures reflect his dynamic sense of anatomy & rhythm with attention to detail.

JAMES BUCKLEY GALLOWAY is a curator, artist, and writer, who is currently curating a show on queer identity in the digital age for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. In addition, he is coordinating Art Talks On The River for the Los Angeles River Public Art Project, and working with Hijinx ART MGMT & PR. Galloway’s own artistic practice is greatly inspired by his time living in India and Bhutan. You can see some of his paintings at Galloway received his MFA in painting from San Francisco Art Institute, and resides in Los Angeles.


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