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Sculptor Stephen Talasnik Visits Brookdale

Acclaimed artist and sculptor Stephen Talasnik set up shop on the Lincroft campus Dec. 3, hosting a campus-wide design competition between 18 Brookdale students and giving a free presentation to members of the community.

Talasnik began the day by addressing a group of architecture, drawing, painting and sculpting students, each of whom had volunteered for the unique competition. The students, arranged into nine teams of two, were assigned specific “sites” on campus and tasked with building a freestanding tower out of 50 bamboo poles, zip ties and masking tape.

After an introduction by Talasnik – who encouraged the teams to be inspired by their surroundings and create something truly unique from the materials at hand – the students spent four hours designing and building their towers.

Sculptor Stephen Talasnik (right) critiques work by Brookdale students on the Lincroft campus Dec. 3.

Sculptor Stephen Talasnik (right) critiques work by Brookdale students on the Lincroft campus Dec. 3.

Talasnik then joined art professor Marie Maber on a tour of the completed structures, offering pointed critiques to each team before ultimately selecting two winners.

The team of Cameron Wright and Jillian Gutleber won top honors for their tower built in the woods near Lot 1, constructed out of a series of bent bamboo poles straddling a fallen tree.

“Frank Lloyd Wright said that the best architecture does not imitate nature; it uses nature as a point of departure,” Talasnik told the team. “The goal is to find inspiration in your environment and then use that to create something entirely new. That’s what you have done here.”

The team of Quentin Hodge-Grant and Rachel Nardiha won for their eight-foot-tall tower on the lawn near the Bankier Library, which, on an extremely windy day, was built to resemble a tornado.

“Immediately, you get a sense of motion, a sense of action, from this piece,” Talasnik told the team. “Very well done.”

In addition to some bragging rights among their classmates, both winning teams received a copy of Talasnik’s book Floating World. For an aspiring architect like Hodge-Grant, however, simply participating in the contest was reward enough.

“I never thought that using bamboo, zip ties and masking tape would work together,” he said. “It was a challenge, but I’m always ready for a challenge.

“Having Stephen critique my work was a great experience because, as an architecture student, that’s the only way to make yourself better,” he added. “You need someone to point out not only the good things, but the things that need to be improved as well. I definitely feel as though he told me what I needed to know to improve my project.”

Following the competition, Talasnik spoke at length about his 40-year career as an artist and sculptor during a public presentation in the CVA Gallery.

From his roots as an amateur drawer, inspired by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Hugh Ferriss, to his current work building floating, hurricane-resistant habitats for residents in flood-prone communities, Talasnik said his career is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of engineering.

“I wanted to do large-scale projects that really challenged what engineering could be,” he said. “I wanted to explore the aesthetics of engineering. I felt like engineering was an undervalued, under-appreciated art form.”

Talasnik’s visit concluded Brookdale’s 2015 Visiting Artist Series, an annual arts education program sponsored by the Monmouth County Arts Council, the Brookdale Art Society, and community donors. Learn more about Brookdale’s arts education programs here.

Check out more photos from Talasnik’s visit here.