I WANT TO DO SOMETHING FOR PEOPLE who don’t necessarily go to museums. I also want to make fine art.”
Melody Peters is realizing both those aspirations in a pair of life-size nude sculptures soon to be cast in bronze and join Tucson’s trove of public art.
“A lot of public art is diluted and tends to be bland,” she told me during a recent visit to her studio near the UofA.
With a $100,000-plus grant (credit the Tucson Pima Arts Council) and determined fidelity to her work, Peters is striving to create life affirming sculpture that tests the limits of her skill to give form to her vision.
And it’s not as if she comes to the task without a body of accomplishment as a public artist.
Peters arrived in Tucson in the 1970s to pursue an MFA at the University of Arizona after schooling at St. Martin’s School in London where she began her study of sculpture. She’s worked in several mediums, including abstract pieces in steel, fiberglass resin, cast stone and ceramics.
In 1991 she completed some 3,000 tiles that adorn the Ronstadt Transit Center downtown. Five years later, her work appeared at Sunset Parl next to City Hall. More recently, she completed a series of panel reliefs at Silverbell and Santa Cruz Lane. They display a pattern of technical skill and attention to detail evolving with a growing sense of confidence and boldness.
Her current work will soon find its home in a park area just northwest of the soon to be completed 4th Avenue underpass, the gateway between the Avenue’s arts and entertainment community and their downtown brethren.
She began the present project three years ago, consuming books on anatomy and refining her concept in a series of studies that now line shelves along two walls of her studio. “Ninety-eight percent of the process is learning,” she says.
In the female and male dance figures she’s created, she’s trying “to convey a sense of life.”
“A feeling of lightness,” I offer.
“No, you can’t have a sense of lift without gravity.” It’s as if she’s capturing just that instant in dance – as I see it – when the gracefulness of lift reaches an apogee against life’s eternal force of gravity. But Peters is quite happy to have each individual find their own interpretation or meaning in what she’s created.
She is a bit apprehensive about the public reception the nude sculptures will receive. “For me, it’s taking a lot of guts to put these out there.” How many times have creators of excellence felt that way? How much do we owe them? Tucson will be richer for Peters’ gift.