Celebrating the symbolism of art

Peloquin's vision, sculpture to mark arts council's 25th anniversary


Ginger Peloquin's latest sculpture, an oval covered with a mosaic of vibrant blue and green glass, is laden with symbolism.

In Peloquin's vision, the oval shape suggests both gathering and direction. A spiraling ramp represents the twists and turns artists face in the creative journey. A flowing mosaic pattern on the base recalls the fluidity, rhythm, tension and drama of all types of art.

When Peloquin, of Catonsville, adds wooden seats supported by the central sculpture - much like the Howard County Arts Council supports artistic expression - the Benchmark Project, which was created to celebrate the council's 25th anniversary, will also represent more than 1,300 hours of work.

"I have a tendency to gravitate toward sizable projects," Peloquin said.

The bench and its redesigned courtyard will be unveiled Sept. 15 at Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City during an anniversary celebration from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

"We wanted to do a public sculpture for a long time," said Coleen West, executive director of the arts council. The anniversary inspired the council to request proposals, and a committee found Peloquin's idea symbolic and aesthetically pleasing.

Peloquin began with a scale model of the sculpture that served as a guide for a series of wooden frames, which were used to pour the concrete shapes.

The construction was the most difficult part, Peloquin said, requiring 300 hours to cut slats of wood and nail them side-by-side into curved shapes and mix 25 bags of cement. But, she said, "it was also the most interesting [part] to me because I've never constructed a form like that before."

Peloquin also used the model to plan the mosaic design, so she could see how it fit together from many angles.

The design was transferred from the model to sheets of paper, and more than 10,000 glass shapes - each one cut out by hand and ground to eliminate the sharp edges - were glued to the paper pattern.

One section at a time, the paper was laid up against the adhesive-coated concrete sculpture. When the adhesive was dry, the paper was removed, and the glass pattern remained behind to be secured with grout and sealed.

Peloquin enlisted the help of two interns: her 18-year-old son, Eric, who did a fair amount of digging and lifting in addition to cutting glass; and Cheryl Smith, 17, of Sykesville, who was a sculpture student of Peloquin's.

The three worked for 4 1/2 months in Peloquin's on-site studio and in the courtyard, relying on a tent and a blow-up turtle-shaped swimming pool to keep cool.

Smith, who will attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts this fall, said she was not fazed by the painstaking work.

The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks will install more than 150 inscribed bricks purchased by supporters of the project, as well as landscaping, stone and ornamental grass.

The courtyard will include square pavers that were decorated with mosaic glass by members of the community during workshops at the arts center. Other pavers were painted by members of a Head Start program under the direction of an arts council-supported artist-in-residence.

Peloquin said her artistic path has always been shaped by her need to try new things.

She earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Virginia, a background that was helpful in making the complicated three-dimensional form. She also studied classical realist painting at the Mitchell School of Art and took classes at Maryland Institute College of Art.

She has been a full-time artist for 15 years, and she said she has been working with mosaics for about four years.

Her son will attend Rhode Island School of Design this fall, so Peloquin decided it was a good time to start a graduate program in theater set design at the University of Maryland.

"I've worked in just about every media available because of my need to have a new frontier," she said. "I thought, `Why not try something completely new?'"


Howard County Center for the Arts is at 8510 High Ridge Road. Information: 410-313-2787 or www.hocoarts.org.

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