JOHNSON -- Manchester resident Susan Read Cronin, best known for her small playful bronzes, has installed her first large work on the campus of Johnson State College in northern Vermont.
"A Matter of Balance," a bronze sculpture that depicts an elephant trying to stay atop a wheel, stands over six feet high.
"I usually makes things of a size and scale I can pick up and move around by myself," Cronin said, "but this new big sculpture is a whole other ball of wax! It took a front loader and a lot of manpower to install it."
Cronin was inspired to work big by Leila Bandar, Johnson State College Campus Arts Coordinator.
She explained that she had tried to do a large piece once before at the encouragement and with the help of an artist friend.
"Unfortunately, after all my efforts for a full week working hard with blue foam, electric carving knives, heat guns and hot wax somehow I managed to turn my sweet 14" rabbit into a monster that just kept getting bigger and bigger and more and more out of proportion. In fact, it started to scare me. I remember driving home on a hot summer day with a 7’ foam rabbit covered in wax crammed in the back of my little silver station wagon. It languished in my storage area for nearly two years before I decided it had nowhere to go but the dumpster. After that, I kept working small, thinking that I liked having power over the world I created. If the pieces stayed small, I would stay in control.
Cronin tells the story of Bandar coming to her studio during a month-long residency she was doing at The Vermont Studio Center in Johnson a year ago last March. Bandar, familiar with Cronin’s work for over 12 years, told the artist that if she ever decided to do a large piece, she would find a home for it. "It got me thinking, " said Cronin. "The foundry I had been working with for 12 years was going to be closing and I was feeling rather sorry for myself. Change was afoot. I would no longer be doing the same old thing at the same old place. What if I did do a large piece? What if I took the risk of working big? What if I let go of control of the small world I liked to create? What if I broadened my horizon? Leila had gotten me thinking. My heart started beating faster and faster. It was as if there was a little Quaker meeting going on inside me and I was being called to do something."
Reviewing all the pieces in her collection, Cronin decided that her 7" "A Matter of Balance" sculpture "spoke" to her. She thought it would translate well on a larger scale, so she took it to Glenn Campbell’s foundry in West Rutland.
Cronin and Bandar selected the site on the campus this past April and during the summer, Bandar located the boulder base. On September 16th, Bandar and Cronin assisted Campbell as he installed the sculpture on the rock, with the added help of the college’s buildings and grounds crew, a bucket loader, a giant power drill and some strong epoxy. The piece is now permanently located on a hill between the Visual Arts Center and the athletic fields.
On the evening of September 20, Cronin dedicated the 6’ "A Matter of Balance" to Leila Bandar at an outdoor ceremony hosted by Johnson State College President Barbara Murphy. Cronin closed her dedication by saying, "As I stand here now and look at this boulder, ferrying the wheel-riding elephant that is oriented to ride towards the mountains, I see a much bigger world unfold in front of me. This is a new world that happened because someone had invited me to it."
Cronin noted that her rewarding experience with the 6’ "A Matter of Balance" has now inspired her to enlarge other pieces of her collection.
Susan Read Cronin’s smaller work is currently on display at The Harrison Gallery in Williamstown, Mass., in a solo show that will run through Oct. 30 and may also be viewed on her website at www.susanreadcronin.com.