Charles Vess’ A Midsummers Night’s Dream fountain

Charles Vess, Midsummer Night's Dream fountainFriends and fans of Charles Vess have very much enjoyed following the creation of his A Midsummer Night’s Dream fountain for the Barter Theatre. The 800lb, 16 feet tall bronze sculpture was completed last week, and the official unveiling will take place June 5th. Congrats to Charles! It must be a delight to see a drawing become larger than life in a public square for generations to enjoy.

How did you get such a cool gig and did they ask for Midsummer or was that your decision?

I’ve had a long association with the Barter Theatre: designing their new logo back in 1992 and over the years, designing two very different production of Peter Pan. So four years ago Rick Rose, their artistic director, asked me if I’d be interested coming up with a concept for a large bronze sculptural fountain for them. I chose to collaborate with David Spence, a long time bronze artist that lives in the area, so that I wouldn’t immediately fall flat on my face as I ventured out into a new medium. And having already illustrated Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream and re-conceived it again in Sandman #19 it seemed a natural fit to base whatever design we came up with on the same play. I do love my faeries! After lots of drawing and even more erasing we submitted our drawings to first The Barter and then the Architectural Revue Board of Abingdon. Everyone seemed delighted with our concept and it was a big thumbs up.

Then David and I set about co-sculpting all the various pieces for the project, pouring almost two ton of bronze in the process. The finished fountain measures 16 ft. in height and 15 ft. in circumference and took a little over three years to complete.

Did anything surprise you while working on this assignment?

Well, the same thing that always surprises me about sculpting: that it is far easier for me to sculpt an object than to draw and paint one.

It was also a complete surprise to realize that the completed fountain looks, with a few tweaks, amazingly like my original drawing.

Is this in the same town as the movie theatre with your mural and the library with your 3D mural? If so, I picture Abingdon as some kind of wonderful Vess version of the Land of Laughs. And I want to visit.

The mural is here in Abingdon, as are several permanent installations of my paintings. The 30 x 50 ft. brick wall sculpture (based on the Appalachian Jack Tales) is actually about a 45 minute drive back into the mountains though. A beautiful drive, that.

Michael Kaluta once accused me of trying to transform the area into one of my drawings and I answered with “Why Not?”

Come on down anytime. The dedication for the fountain is scheduled for June 5 and all are welcome.

Here are the links to three long, image-rich blog entries on the sculpting of the entire project:

Part 1

Part 2


For fans of Charles Vess, be sure to check out his art book Drawing Down the Moon, due out from Dark Horse by late July. I got a sneak preview of the book when Charles was in New York last. It’s an amazing body of work presented in full-page reproductions.


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