Without any formal art schooling, she developed her own process of making an architectural drawing and having it translated through a computer-assisted design program so that the metal parts can be precision cut by laser. She then uses her welding experience to bend and fit the pieces together into hollow three-dimensional spaces that are welded to an interior armature for support. Patterned cutouts in the metal are riveted with painted lucite and illuminated from the inside by an LED or, as Morrison soon hopes to do exclusively, solar panels-- by which she in turn hopes to incorporate these solar panel designs into the flow of everyday life.
She seeks to incorporate into her work contrasts found in nature, from the bulky rock and metal to the airy weightlessness of light. In the combination of light trapped inside of heavy metal, the light is given weight, and the bulky metal structure attains a sense of weightlessness. Morrison developed these concepts of unbalanced contrasts working in harmony, in part, during her childhood in New Orleans, watching the way bulky and unwieldy barges could glide so smoothly and effortlessly in water. Today, her industrial setting carved out of nature inspires her work with similar contrasts and harmonies.
She is especially grateful to the Wades for providing affordable studio space because, as she puts it, the barrier to entry in public art sculpture is “prohibitively expensive.” Robin and Carolyn Wade have supported a number of artists form all over the world over the years as artists in residence at Wade Sand and Gravel. According to Robin Wade, “industry and art should work together.”
In fact, Morrison uses material found on the property in her art. She does not use all the old scrap metal from the former steel and iron plant, because she does conceptual design, not found art. But she does use rock left over from the blasting process of creating, well, sand and gravel. Cores are drilled into the rock to place charges, and sometimes large pieces of rock with these cylindrical cores survive the blast. Morrison incorporates these rock anchors into much of her work, fashioning steel and aluminum chains connecting her stylized metal sculptures to the shafts cut out of the rock remnants. Part of the idea is to think of “what we are bound to,” evoking everything from childhood memories to our most important commitments. For Morrison, the stone cores impart a primordial backdrop of materials that have existed for millions of years.
Morrison is enjoying success partly because some cities from Boise to Norfolk, but not Birmingham, are starting to budget art into their public spaces. Most of her work is pub licly bid and commissioned. She has done ten major public art installations in the last year, as near as Orange Beach and Daphne and as far away as Key West and San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state. She believes in incorporating her art in the space and landscape design, considering all elements of the environment her work inhabits. She is currently working on installations for the Oklahoma City Library, the Fairhope Public Library, and downtown Shreveport.
Not surprisingly, for a designer, welder, and grant-getter, part of Morrison’s enjoyment of art is the process, as she takes her imag ined images and converts them to finished projects, in an artist’s journey through the interplay of human intelligence, technology, and nature. •