Enjoy West Bend... City of Sculptures

West Bend Friends of Sculpture Inc. was founded and incorporated in 1992. Its purpose is to capture the spirit of the community and express it in public art. The collection is based on three important heritages of the West Bend community: 

  • Its industrial history of making products, similar to the fabrication of sculptures.
  • Its commitment to beautiful parks, where many of the pieces are placed. 
  • Its connection to the Milwaukee River and the Riverfront Parkway, the site for a number of the sculptures in the community collection. 

The goal of the Friends of Sculpture is to enhance the quality of life by adding an artistic dimension to the city’s identity. 

How to Look at Contemporary Sculpture
Much of today’s sculpture is not figurative. That means it is not based on the human or other animal figures. While figurative sculpture defined all of sculpture for millennia, all of that changed in the early 20th Century. Pre-20th Century figurative sculpture can be described as statuary. Today’s mostly abstract sculptures are not only different in form, they are different in materials as well.

While some contemporary artists continue to cast sculptures in metal or carve sculptures in stone, most artists assemble their works out of a wide variety of materials, from feathers, fabric, welded metals or cast away recyclables. These materials, inexpensive costs and ease of manufacturing processes allow artists to work in larger scale than those of previous centuries.

Subject Matter Varies
The artist’s personal set of forms, colors, finishes and textures define their unique styles. The form can be something we may recognize, vaguely recognize or it could be a set of forms that are foreign to our eyes but nevertheless hold together as a unified work. They can be a visual dialogue between the artist and the viewer.

Balance or Imbalance
Sculpture exists in the three dimensions, unlike some two-dimensional art -- paintings, prints, and drawings. Therefore, sculpture should be experienced from all sides. Oftentimes, the sculptor will balance shapes. Yet other sculptors create a dynamic tension by intentionally creating an imbalance of form. Some sculptures have moving forms.

Space Can Be Negative
Some forms of the sculpture frame an empty space (negative space), and often that is even more important than the solid forms that frame the negative space.

Sculptures Fit Their Surroundings
Look around where the sculpture sits. Often a sculptor creates a site-specific sculpture, one that fits the space in a specific way. Its scale, texture, and subject are created to complement or contrast the surrounding environment.

Materials Make the Difference
Contemporary sculptures can be made of earth, concrete, plant material, artificial or natural light, water, ice or found objects.

Viewing With Open Eyes and Mind
Viewing sculpture is a contemplative experience. Take a quiet moment to view the work from all sides during different times of day or seasons. The experience changes with each of these things. Look from a distance and then look close up to see the textures and to understand what materials were used and how it was constructed. See if you can determine what part of the real world influenced the sculptor’s forms. Remember, not everyone likes the same type of music. Rather than saying, “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like” perhaps it is better to say, “I don’t know much about art but I like some of what I know”.