Collection Spotlight: Auburn Oak Bowl

By | Art, Building Community, News, Sculpture, Supporting Auburn | No Comments

Matt Moulthrop continues a legacy of innovation in woodturning, advancing techniques developed by his grandfather and father, artists Ed and Philip Moulthrop. In partnership with Auburn University, Moulthrop turned this bowl from the sizeable forked section of the Auburn Oaks at Toomer’s Corner. Do you notice the dramatic patterns from where the limbs intersected? He often works with trees that have a meaningful association in people’s minds or unique value to a community.

What significance does Toomer’s Corner hold for you? Does the work of art or woodturning process capture it in some way? What kind of item might you transform into art to preserve a memory or convey a story? Its history?

Auburn Oak Bowl, 2014
Turned wood (Live oak)
Ca. 15 x 26 ½ x 26 ½ inches
Gift of the artist, 2014

“Each tree has a story to tell. Wormholes convey past life, rings communicate growth and certain colors tell the story of death by lightning or blight. My job is to tell the story…lengthening the life of the tree rather than ending it.”

Matt Moulthrop
A sculpture constructed from wood beams, forming multiple X shapes.

#MuseumFromHome: Out of the Box

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Practice safe social distancing and explore the museum grounds. There are large scale sculptures you can walk around (and even inside) in our juried outdoor sculpture exhibition, “Out of the Box!”

Our #MuseumFromHome family activity is inspired by “Basics #38 (for Brancusi)” and household materials. Join people all over the world on Saturday, April 25, 2020, as they celebrate International Sculpture Day. Take photos of your sculpture and tag #ISDay/@JCSMAuburn.

The artist, Mattias Neumann, draws upon what he learned and practices as an architect to create his work. He thinks about the way public art changes a location. The one he made for JCSM is made just for our grounds.

He installed the first version of this sculpture at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Romania, and there have been other versions all over the country.

How does a sculpture or work of art change a public space? Does it make you stop and wonder in your everyday life, or do you just walk by?

A sculpture constructed from wood beams, forming multiple X shapes.

What You’ll Need

Popsicle Sticks

School Glue or Tacky Glue

Sheet of Paper



Using a pencil and a piece of paper, create a guide to lay your popsicle sticks on top of. Draw two X’s side by side, connecting the edges. It should look like this: XX.  To maintain the same pattern as you build, it is smart to label each line 1-4 like in the picture.

Numbered lines drawn on paper, forming two

Place your first popsicle stick (red in the picture) down on the line you have labeled “1.” Place a dot of glue in the center of the popsicle stick where your next stick will cross over it to create an X. Remember: the less glue the better! Using only a tiny dot of glue will help your sculpture to dry faster and not slip as you build.

Popsicle stick placed diagonally on the guide lines.

Position your second popsicle stick (yellow in the picture) down along the line you labeled “2.” This stick should cross over your first stick to create an ‘X’ shape. Place a dot of glue on the end of the stick.

Place your fourth stick over the dots of glue on sticks 3 and 1. This will create the XX shape we want!

Place a dot of glue on the center of stick 2 (yellow) and the end of stick 4 (blue).

It is time to repeat the process! Place a popsicle stick over the glue dots you created on sticks 2 and 4. Repeat the steps until your sculpture is the desired height.

Once you are done, share your work with others. Create your own sculpture garden using a variety of materials. Post to social media if you are able. We’d love to share your creation online @JCSMAuburn for a #MuseumFromHome.

Self-Portrait as Bunnies by Alex Podesta

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Bunnies in the Lake

“What’s the deal with bunnies?” is a question you’ve probably heard around Auburn more than once. Rubberneckers driving down South College Street headed toward Jordan-Hare Stadium will notice two men dressed as bunnies in the lake in front of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, and it has created quite a stir within the community. At first glance some viewers believed there were real men playing dress up in the lake, and some have said they were very intrigued when they first discovered the sculpture.

Alex Podesta’s Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers) is a part of the museum’s commitment to presenting outdoor sculpture. His unforgettable piece took two awards: second place in “Out of the Box: A Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition,” plus a fan favorite award voted on by the community.

Podesta is an artist from New Orleans, Louisiana, who created this particular sculpture as a part of an ongoing series, in which the artist draws parallels between the role of children’s imagination and how that plays a part in the lives of adults.

Marilyn Laufer, the museum’s director, states, “What a fabulous piece it is, because it works on so many levels. It grabs your attention and makes you smile, and once you know that it’s a self-portrait of the artist, you start to realize that there is something else going on here.”

So what is this piece really all about, what is the artist trying to say? Laufer continues, “A good work of art will make you ask all kinds of questions. The best experience is to stay with it, talk about it, and engage in a conversation with friends. In the end you realize it’s a very serious piece that is about understanding self and recognizing your own vulnerabilities and yet these serious issues are addressed through humor. ”

Whether you’re coming into town to cheer on your Auburn Tigers, or are a part of the opposing team, most football fans can agree that these bunnies are pretty interesting.

“Experiencing art in a museum is one thing. Experiencing art in nature is a whole other kind of thing, and I want the art experiences we offer to be as diverse and fulfilling as possible,” says Laufer.

These bunnies have become a staple in the Auburn community, creating conversations about meaning and art even among those who may have never been to Auburn University’s art museum before. Hopefully this piece will continue to spark these conversations for years to come.


View the Out of the Box Digital Exhibition for more information on this sculpture and others in the exhibition.

Interactive Sculpture to Entertain Visitors and Support JCSM

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Auburn University graphic design professor John Morgan brings art to life in three-dimensional form through kinetic sculpture. Intrigued by the possibility of collaborating on a large piece with Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, Morgan planned for a multi-faceted display intended to fascinate the public. Combining visual art, design, mechanics, and woodworking, Morgan created an animated sculpture donation box, “Artful Dodger.” Morgan will deliver a talk on his work with a reception to follow at the museum on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 2:00 p.m.

The piece is made of five electric motors controlled by a series of timers and switches. The carved wooden carrousel turns clockwise as each gear slides into position. Each click of the gear showcases wooden figures attached to the piece, derived from the museum’s permanent collection.

“I didn’t find it interesting to try to simply duplicate two-dimensional art in three dimensions as it limits the opportunity for creative expression,” Morgan said. “So I chose to extrapolate what each of the subjects might have been doing at a time other than the moment that their image was frozen in our conscience by the artist.”

With this in mind Morgan created a unique personality for each subject attached to the piece. In Diane Arbus’ black and white photograph, “Triplets in their Bedroom,” the subjects are now shown vacationing at the beach, but still depicted in black and white. John James Audubon’s whooping crane is shown wading through a marsh observing whatever happens to pass by. Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s “Circus Girl Resting” is now shown performing and Roger Brown’s “Hank Williams Honky Tonk Man” sings in a “honky tonk” setting.

“Since all four of the subjects have different personalities, I decided to present each to the viewer one at a time on the carousel turntable with the Audubon whooping crane being the central unit that unites other diverse subjects,” Morgan said. The creation of each subject and the turntable took approximately two years to complete with the help of student technicians. The planning process lasted a year, which led to a full-size cardboard model. After the dimensions were approved, Morgan finalized the sculpture, marking another stage in his kinetic sculpture career.

For 30 years, Morgan has studied and produced kinetic sculpture primarily in woodwork. Pieces from his limited edition collections have been shown in “American Craft” and “American Woodworker” and exhibited in museums around the world. In the summer, he also teaches at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Indiana, the largest woodworking school in the United States.

“I hope that this piece will be well received by the patrons and become a signature piece of the museum,” he said. “I believe that it will help to make the experience of museum going more interactive.”

Museum guests will be able to visit the donation box in the museum’s Carlisle Lobby and experience Morgan’s interpretation of the permanent collection. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with extended hours on Thursday until 8 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free courtesy of JCSM Business Partners. This piece was made possible with support from J. Mark Jones–Prestige Properties.

Contributed by Taylor Ennis, PR Intern, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

Aubie Loves Sculpture Too! Get Your Pics from JCSM’s “Tailgate”

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Aubie surprised guests with an appearance at our Museum Homecoming Tailgate on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015.

As you tour and experience Out of the Box: An Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition through October 2016be sure to take lots of pictures and share using #ThisIsSculpture.

For those of you who attended our event, download your picture as a memento from the museum’s Flickr account. Scroll to your picture, click the image, and select the download arrow from the image bank menu on the bottom righthand of the page.

Aubie at Museum Homecoming Tailgate (10.02.15)

Oh Snap! Get Your Photo Booth Pics from JCSM’s “Tailgate”

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Our JCSM photo booth captured the fun of the Museum Homecoming Tailgate on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Guests showed their team spirit and belief in the transformative power of art.

As you tour and experience Out of the Box: An Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition through October 2016be sure to take lots of pictures and share using #ThisIsSculpture.

For those of you who attended our event, download your picture as a memento from the museum’s Flickr account. Scroll to your picture, click the image, and select the download arrow from the image bank menu on the bottom righthand of the page.

Museum Homecoming Tailgate (10.02.15) Museum Homecoming Tailgate 2016

Share your Out of the Box experience with #ThisisSculpture

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These are the 11 finalists of our juried outdoor sculpture exhibition, Out of the Box! The exhibition opens this Friday October 2 at our Museum Homecoming Tailgate. Share your experience with the sculpture by tagging  your photos with #ThisisSculpture

Joni Younkins-Herzog, Delirium

Mike Wsol, Lost Horizon #2

Charles Pilkey, Tree of Good and Evil

Alex Podesta, Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers)

Hanna Jubran, Triad

Adam Walls, Core 3

Deborah La Grasse, Union

Heath Matysek-Snyder, Komíny-NBS Explore

Gregory Johnson, Centrum

Luke Achterberg, Fettle

Jeffie Brewer, Bunny

Meet the Artists: Charles Pilkey, Gregory Johnson, and Jeffie Brewer

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Charles Pilkey, Gregory Johnson, and Jeffie Brewer are three of 11 artists selected to exhibit in the second installment of JCSM’s biennial Out of the Box: A Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition.

Charles Pilkey

Mint Hill, North Carolina

Tree of Good and Evil,  2012
Painted steel and bronze


Artist Statement:

Tree of Good and Evil consists of tools, machine parts, and other found objects, along with bronze and steel figures that are welded to the side of a tree-shape. The work was inspired by the Old Testament parable in Genesis. It is a metaphor for our ambivalent relationship to technology.

Gregory Johnson

Cumming, Georgia

Centrum,   2015
Stainless steel


Artist Statement:

For the modern works, my starting point is the circle. As a thematic symbol, it reaches out to me with a cleanliness of shape, present in our everyday lives, and because it has no corners— just one beautiful line with no beginning, middle, or end. The circle is an incredible spiritual shape that invites interpretation. I use the entire circle, whole and complete, and contrast it with segments of the circle or shapes that have arcs in them.

Jeffie Brewer

Nacogdoches, Texas

Bunny,   2013

Artist Statement:

My work’s intention is to provide just enough information, allowing for a narrative without delving into total non-representation. Leaving room for interpretation as well as a little mystery, I hope, adds to the viewing experience. My work in graphic design and general fascination with pop culture are heavy influences on my sculptural work.

See more of their work at our Museum Homecoming Tailgate on Friday, October 2, to celebrate the opening of Out of the Box! The community-wide event is open to all ages, and will include sculpture tours, art and family activities, a grand prize giveaway, a tiger bounce house for kids, and delicious food and beverage options from local favorites. Guest artist and juror Willie Cole will announce the three top prizewinners from among the 11 finalists during the event! Help us get a headcount by registering for your free tickets. 

Out of the Box is made possible in part with funds provided by Julian Robert Haynes, in memory of Dr. Lucile McGehee Haynes, Grace and David E. Johnson, and the Susan Phillips Educational Gift Fund.
A portion of the finalists’ honoraria for the 11 finalists is supported by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

A Taste of Out of the Box

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Meet one of the vendors of our Museum Homecoming Tailgate on Friday, October 2! Chicken Salad Chick will have food available for purchase from 3 to 7 pm as we celebrate the opening of Out of the Box: A Juried Outdoor Sculpture ExhibitionThe community-wide event is open to all ages, and will include sculpture tours, art and family activities, a tiger bounce house for kids, a grand prize giveaway, and delicious food and beverage options from local favorites (including Chicken Salad Chick!). Cash is preferred, we ID. No outside food or drinks allowed.



Vendor Spotlight: Chicken Salad Chick

Chicken Salad Chick will serve

-Chicken salad!

About Chicken Salad Chick:

“I have always been on my own personal quest to find the perfect chicken salad. Every restaurant I entered, I would order the chicken salad sandwich. The funny thing about chicken salad is that everyone’s idea of the “perfect” one is so completely different, although we all pretty much agree that chicken and mayonnaise are the two key components. So, after tasting every chicken salad I came across, I realized everyone’s idea of the perfect recipe is different. I began working on my original recipe at home and taste testing on my cooperative and wonderful neighbors. They were kind enough to give me honest feedback as I kept tweaking. I finally arrived with a recipe where the consensus was that “this was IT.” Thanks to my neighbors and the teachers at Ogletree Elementary School, within three weeks I had more business than I could handle.

I then formed a partnership with Kevin Brown, my future husband, who had shared this vision with me from the beginning. He had the experience and business sense to turn a recipe into a restaurant.

So business was booming, word was spreading, the idea of a restaurant was growing and Ring! “Stacy?…” “Yes?” “This is Stan from Lee County Health Department…. Where are you cooking your chicken?” “In my kitchen Stan… is that a problem?” “Yes… that is illegal. You cannot cook anything in your home and sell it.” “Thanks Stan.” So we put a halt to everything. Our customers were outraged and some tried to get some smuggled anyway. Jeffrey Tucker, the vice president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a customer of mine, wrote in blog titled “The Chicken Salad Chick Shut Down,” saying “This girl has been shut down, not because she is a threat to our health, but because she is a threat to competition!” He also went on to say, “It’s a classic case of suburban food hysteria.” Thank you, Jeffrey. Thank you also to the anonymous caller who turned me into the health department. You really lit the fire under Kevin to turn this idea into a restaurant sooner than ever! Since that day, he has worked tirelessly to turn this dream of ours into a reality. This has truly been a collaborative effort by neighbors keeping my children so I could work, by friends painting artwork on the restaurant walls, friends offering professional services free of charge and my family’s undying support. Thank you everyone and especially Kevin….Thank you for never giving up. We did it!

Chicken Salad Chick is a place all chicken salad lovers can find something they enjoy. With 15 different chicken salads to choose from, there is something for every palate. So now that you know about us, come see what kind of lunch a computer software salesman and a stay-at-home mom have whipped up for you. It’s pretty tasty!”

– Stacy Brown

See more on their website.

Out of the Box is made possible in part with funds provided by Julian Robert Haynes, in memory of Dr. Lucile McGehee Haynes, Grace and David E. Johnson, and the Susan Phillips Educational Gift Fund.

Volunteers needed as we gear up for our second “Out of the Box” opening!

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We’re looking for help during the Out of the Box exhibition’s official opening on Friday, October 2nd! The event is tailgate-themed for Homecoming weekend and is free and open to the public from 3-7 pm. We’ll have hands-on art activities, tours of the newly-installed sculpture, awesome food available for purchase, and a lot more.

We’ll need people to help out at our photo-prop booth and to punch cards for our giveaway. (We’re raffling off a Yeti cooler!) Shifts will be about an hour long and a free t-shirt and koozie will be provided.

Sign up to volunteer.

More information about our Museum Homecoming Tailgate.

More information about Out of the Box: a Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition.

Welcome to the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

We welcome you to explore, experience and engage with the visual arts.