Deedee Morrison - Woman Of Steel
“I submitted my sculpture idea to Chattanooga because they are recognized nationally as a public art forum for artist,” says the well-known sculptor Deedee Morrison, who just installed "Seed-pod" at Renaissance Park by the Tennessee River.
Born in New Orleans, Deedee made her way to Birmingham, where she now resides and works in a very unique studio located in the center of Wade Sand and Gravel (which is on the grounds of the original Republic Steel Company; home to one of the largest coke smelting plants in Alabama).
“I am continually inspired by the surroundings here, to create large pieces suitable for harsh environments. Much of my work is motivated by the angle of working with both symbolic and representational aspects,” she says.
Deedee attended college in Sewanee, Tn., “That was my connection to Chattanooga.” She has traveled far since, working as an economist in London. Deedee decided to take an art class. “I knew I always wanted to be a sculptor. Though I graduated with a developmental economics degree; I wanted to weld. I went back to technical school and was the only female in a class of 19 guys learning to weld.”
When Deedee picked up her first welding gun it was an instant match. “I have always been fascinated by steel. It is heavy, flat and a difficult material to maneuver and its physical constraints does not allow light to be incorporated.” Deedee adds, “Steel is not usually considered feminine and this is what I love about what I do. I use very heavy masculine material and I am able to create sculptures, which to me are very feminine. The light that is incorporated into the sculptures creates a fluid, natural and organic looking material - not traditional.
“I also use, in addition to steel and aluminum, the rock that comes out of the quarry. When you blast in a quarry they use dynamite in a shaft-hole and sometimes the dynamite doesn’t blow the rock all the way apart. I will harvest them and bring them up to the studio, and put muriatic acid on them. It brings out the colors and I build a sculpture around that rock.”
One of the creations stemming from this idea is her charm series in which she welds steel and chains into a rock. These pieces also light up.
Deedee’s interest in the creations is about contrast - contrast that don’t necessarily contradict but they complement each other.
As she explains on her website; “The process is equally important. Though I am a sculptor, I spend much of my time with graphite and paper—drawing as many images necessary to appropriately plan my actions for a 3D project and after settling on the right design by achieving a sense of completion with a drawing.”
A CAD designer transmutes her drawing to a format which is sent to a laser service for precision cutting of the numerous pieces of steel or aluminum needed. Deedee then welds the pieces together over an armature for stability and support. Clear Lexan material is then riveted to the structure under the patterned cutouts and spray painted from the inside to achieve a variety of radiant colors. And interior light is powered by an LED or solar device and is placed in the interior space of the sculpture and the piece is complete.
“The final artwork is only half of the journey,” Deedee insists. In order to install the piece for Chattanooga, she had to rent a truck and get permits. It was considered a wide-load. “It is another round of complications to go through- you have no idea what goes on behind it. It’s a labor of love,” the artist reveals.
“Seed-pod”, which was installed in Chattanooga this week, is a solar-powered creation, “This particular sculpture is based on a seedpod design and the lunar panel had been built to form the shape of a seedpod and the seedpod has drawings that are based on botanical scenes. The solar power collects the energy during the day and then releases it to the seedpod at night. The seedpod actually lights up.”
Deedee has installed several of her sculptures all over the United States, such as Stevens Point Wis., Canton Mich., Clearwater, Fla., and Washington to name a few.
What motivates her?
The first piece she ever created was called, “Undone”. She had taken a 14-foot piece of pipe and cut it open with a plasma cutter and cut a zipper. “It came at a time in my life when I was literally coming undone. I had just gone through a divorce and it just represented everything that I felt.”
A smaller version of that piece actually ended up being in a show. Deedee recounts having a woman come up to her while she was painting it. “When the woman asked me what it was called, I told her ‘Undone’ and the woman nearly started dancing with joy. That’s when I really felt the power of the expression of art.”
Deedee has grown as an artist and as a woman who is in touch with not only her feminine side but also the power that lies within, which is her passion to combine the two contrasts with her solar projects.
In what the artist creates, it is more than a hunk of steel; it is indeed communication. One can view her work, see the emotion and take away with them a message that was uniquely conveyed.
She says, “Seed-pod is my favorite piece that I have ever done. I am a big believer of art having something to say and Seed-pod is mimicking nature; the sun and the seed-pod work together creating life. This sculpture gathering the power of the sun is also very educational and teaches us sustainability. That’s the direction I want to go in.” She maintains, “Every time that I create a new project I learn more about the materials that I work with.”
Deedee works as a professional studio and a public artist. Visit her website atwww.deedeemorrisonsculpture.com and view Seed-pod at Chattanooga’s Renaissance Park, 100 Manufacturer’s Road.
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