People who discover their artistic passion through unconventional means often approach a subject quite differently than someone who follows a more structured course of study. Deedee Morrison, an economist by training, became fascinated with the public art she encountered while living in London.
Morrison soon began taking art classes at night, where she worked with the highly malleable medium of clay. But the pieces of art that really captured her attention were large, looming sculptures that spoke to her artistic sense in a way that small clay pots rarely did.
The Alabama resident made a bold choice and decided to study welding. Morrison learned about the technology of fusing metal, welding as an industrial process and perhaps most importantly, the art of laser cutting metal.
“When I began incorporating these elements into my work, it took on such a whole different dimension,” said Morrison, who recently installed a sculpture titled “Borrowed Light” on the grounds of the Southwest Oklahoma City Public Library.
“Metal is flat and not particularly fluid but when you use a laser, it changes how people view it. In the 10 years I've been working with metal, I've tried to push the limits even more. The use of color can have dramatic effects.”
“Borrowed Light” is 8½ feet high and has five cylindrical columns that create a cloverleaf design. Each of the vertical panels features an intricate laser design that is backed with a bluish green material that creates a perception of depth. At night, LED lighting inside the sculpture causes it to glow.
“I'm an avid reader and a believer that books offer a wonderful way to experience the universe,” Morrison explained. “It doesn't matter if you get that knowledge through a book or an electronic format; the process is the same. Anyone who's willing to go through the front door of a library has access. ‘Borrowed Light' is the information you find.”
Morrison's Alabama studio is housed in a century-old coal testing lab, a reminder of Birmingham's industrial revolution. She's in the process of restoring an adjacent rail car shed which will significantly increase her working space.
Morrison, who has installed sculptures in Washington, Colorado, Louisiana, Alabama and Michigan, typically spends six weeks creating a design concept. A graphic designer then transforms that into a computer-generated drawing and a laser cutter transfers the image onto sheets of metal.
On her website, Morrison states that a sculpture “should incorporate the nuances of the land, the specific environment and/or any unique cultural features that will contextualize the onsite art. Every sculpture I create is designed for durability as well as beauty. (It's) made from industrial grade materials and constructed to withstand inclement weather and real world conditions.”
While many artists are content to send their works of art to a gallery or have assistants deal with the installation of a sculpture, Morrison always tries to be present when one of her pieces of public art is being installed.
“As an artist, it is a wonderful experience to see people's reaction to what you've created,” Morrison said. “The librarians who had seen some renderings of ‘Borrowed Light' felt the drawings didn't do it justice. That's why I do what I do.
“Typically, I will present a seminar about my work that allows me a chance to talk about the message I'm trying to convey. This is a career that is a bit outside of most people's realm so you try to help them understand the process. I tell people that if art is your passion, figure out a way to incorporate it into your life.”