St. James Guide to Black Artists
Edited by Thomas Riggs, published by St. James Press, Detroit, 1997, p. 313.


Artis Lane

By Eric Hanks

The sculptor Artis Lane is primarily concerned with portraying what she sees as enduring spiritual truths. These truths are that the growth of spiritual awareness is continuous and that nobody ever arrives at perfection. In addition, spiritual awareness connects humans with a universal force.

Because Lane sees the physical body as a vehicle for a spiritual journey, the best way to illustrate such truths is to use the human figure cast in bronze. Her technique is to mold male and female nudes and to cast them in bronze but leave the ceramic casing, wire, and tubing used in the casting process, to show that the figure has not attained perfection.

An example can be seen in New Waiting, a standing female nude with her hand on her hip. She has bits of the ceramic casting material on various parts of her body, and the tubing used to channel the molten bronze is till attached. She is like a butterfly that has not completely emerged from its cocoon. The look symbolizes the continuous spiritual journey and transformation that every person must undertake.

Another example of Lane's technique is Emerging New Man. The figure here is also partially covered with ceramic casing material; he has not yet been fully formed. But the figure looks as if he were dancing. A nude dancing figure is some cultures represents a relationship between the figure and the universe, and perhaps Lane intends for this pose to reinforce the idea of spiritual transcendence and to show a connection with universal force.

Not all of lane's work employs the technique of leaving casting material on the figure. In fact, many of her pieces have dual or companion versions that are traditionally cast bronzes. Emerging New Man, for example, has a companion piece titled New Man. The traditionally cast bronze figure presumably represents perfection, perhaps a deity. It cannot be a mere mortal since humans never achieve perfection. Lane sometimes places the two versions face-to-face, engaging them in a dialogue. Such is the case with Emerging New Man and New Man.

Leaving remnants of the casting process is not the only way Lane shows spiritual truths. In Release, for example, a woman is stepping forward, away from a man behind her, as if he were releasing her. Lane says that this work is less about female liberation than about the expression of the universal law that growth occurs by letting go.

There are other things to consider when viewing Lane's work. First, generally speaking, different patinas symbolize various races. Black represents persons of African descent, white symbolizes Caucasians, and bronze stands for all races. Second, texture has special significance. For the most part roughness shows motion or struggle, while smoothness indicates thought.

Finally, Lane is concerned about the dignity of persons of African descent. The figure Adam, for example, clearly has African features, demonstrating to the world that humanity originated in Africa. Classic Head depicts a woman of African descent in a classic pose, as in an ancient Greek sculpture. The woman looks dignified, and Lane has elevated her to the same level as, or even higher than, Eurocentric figures of the past.

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