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Art Matters

From Shakespeare’s birthplace, to Columbia University, to BSU, the work of sculptor Greg Wyatt mixes the real and the magical
Story Series
Bridgewater Magazine

Seven years ago, when local resident, art collector and Bridgewater State University benefactor Lawrence Doherty moved three sculptures from Harvard University to a studio in upstate New York, he had no idea he was forging a connection that would soon transform BSU’s campus.

The sculptures were the work of Hudson Valley artist Greg Wyatt. They had been displayed since 1990 in Harvard University’s Winthrop House Courtyard. However, upcoming renovations meant that in 2016 the art had to go back to its creator. During the move, Mr. Wyatt and Mr. Doherty struck up a friendship. At some point, Mr. Doherty asked the artist what he planned to do with the returning sculptures. “He asked me if I had any leads yet,” Mr. Wyatt recalled during a Zoom call over the summer. “Then he asked, ‘How about Bridgewater State University?’”

The following April, with the help of Jay Block, BSU’s associate director of collections and exhibitions, the courtyard between Maxwell Library and the student union became home to one of the works: a life-size bronze sculpture of the legendary ballet dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov captured in flight, as it were.

This September, what began with that one statue has evolved into the Greg and Fay Wyatt Sculpture Garden, a beautiful site full of works by Mr. Wyatt. Along with the Baryshnikov sculpture are 15 bas reliefs devoted to poets and their relationships to dance, and four ancient river goddesses.

“The idea was to exhibit the poetry of women, and these goddesses each have different symbols, from Italy, China and India, and that is what we’ve attached to the beautiful feminine figure.”

Greg Wyatt

The 72-year-old artist learned how to draw and paint from his father. That alone was life altering. But in the mid-1960s, when the Wyatt family traveled to Mexico and visited the region once occupied by the Mayans, a young Greg Wyatt was surveying the Palenque Ruins and realized that art wasn’t limited to just two dimensions.

“That planted the seeds for my career,” he said.

He went on to combine a love of the Great Books (especially Shakespeare) and elements of ancient mythology with a sculpting style that at least one fan has compared to Rodin. “Wyatt emulates the sculpture of the Western world with contemporary vision,” said Sir Stanley Wells, former chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who was instrumental in acquiring eight large pieces by Mr. Wyatt that are now on display at the playwright’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Indeed, much of Mr. Wyatt’s sculpture finds its roots in the best the Western hemisphere has to offer in drama, poetry, philosophy and fables.

The artist’s other big-time credits include the Peace Fountain and children’s garden at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York City (Mr. Wyatt is its artist-in-residence), and several high-profile pieces at his alma mater, Columbia University, as well as works in national parks and in museums around the country. His sculptures can also be found in the halls of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and on countless campuses.

Mr. Wyatt would no doubt count among his many achievements his work as an educator at the Newington-Cropsey Foundation Academy of Art in his native Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. His goal is to equip his students with the skills they need, but then let them find their own inspiration and style. “Here at the academy, we teach individual originality,” he said. “It’s their choice as to which path they go on. The one thing I can’t teach is creativity.”

Through his connection with BSU, Mr. Wyatt plans to host student interns from the university who will work with him in his studio and at the foundry where his bronze castings are fired. He’s also been invited to speak to BSU classes; an invitation he is happy to accept.

Mr. Block, whose work over the past decade has made the campus a showcase of interesting and impactful artwork, places a high value on Mr. Wyatt’s work, as well as his approach to art in general.

“He is an amazing individual who really places front and center his belief in art as a tool to better humanity,” he said. “Education, art, culture are essentials to making a healthier environment for all of us, and he is one of my favorite people and has been an excellent partner in building a cultural center for our campus. His generosity and belief in our little community is humbling.”

The final pieces of BSU’s sculpture garden are expected to be put in place in the spring. It tops off what is easily one of the most unique collections of public art in the area.

“Some people will like the sculpture, and some will not and that’s fine,” Mr. Block said. “I think that’s the democratic way. My hope is that they’ll find the beauty of nature in the garden and that they will take away what they will from the sculptures. And maybe some of them will be inspired to be artists.

For more information about Mr. Wyatt and his work, log on to The Newington-Cropsey Foundation is the donor of the sculptures.


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