The Sound of Everything Is in Key of Accessibility

by JT Peters

April 5, 2015

Photo captions: (top) Shaun Cassidy’s The Sound of Everything: Bassoon; (bottom) The Sound of Everything: Fiddle.

Art doesn’t have to be something ponderous or complicated. Sometimes art is instant. Sometimes the artist has imbued a work with such a concentrated idea that the audience cannot help but instantly comprehend. Shaun Cassidy’s artwork is instant. One medium, one treatment, a constant underlying concept so human that even for its simplicity there is immense intrapersonal depth. We can all visualize what our favorite song “looks” like; we can close our eyes and imagine the shape, color, form, line and texture of the sound of a guitar chord, a dog’s bark or a bird’s chirp. With his series The Sound of Everything now on display at the Ross Gallery at Central Piedmont Community College as a part of the school’s annual Sensoria Festival (and at the gallery through July 16), Cassidy has reached out for interpretations of sound and brought them into being in the form of sculpture. Formerly a McColl Center for Arts + Innovation Resident Artist, and a public artist through Charlotte Area Transit System and the Arts & Science Council, you don’t have to look very far to encounter work by Cassidy.

Cassidy’s knack for public art is evident in The Sound of Everything. Here is a body of work that is ultimately accessible. Cassidy has taken an elemental human sense, hearing, and interpreted the experience of sound into form. This process is so inherently accessible because it makes no effort to separate the audience from the artist — the conceptual process

that went into the creation of the work can be repeated by anyone. Trying to imagine the shape of a sound is so easy and so personal and subjective that there is a near-instant dialogue created between the piece and the onlooker — “Is this what I think the sound of a thunderstorm looks like?” Just by getting you to ask a simple question like that, the artwork has succeeded; it has evolved past a pile of powder-coated steel and color into something more.

Each of Cassidy’s eight works is as instant as the next. He even goes out of his way to further the intrapersonal dialogue by creating softball visual comparisons. A prime example being, The Sound of Everything: Fiddle and The Sound of Everything: Violin. Here are two similar instruments with almost congruous but definitely unique sounds. The sculptures Cassidy has crafted for each are just as similar as their parent instruments. Fiddle’s continuous lines are sharp and neatly bundled, with similar curved structure and very little in terms of deviation, leaving the piece looking like an immense ruby tuft of grass. Violin shares Fiddle’s general design language, but this “tuft of grass” is in pastel cyan and its “blades” often bend over on themselves, droop, pinch and change direction. The differences in their form are immediately recognizable as the differences in their sounds, and each shape respectively refers back to the nature of how each is played; concept in unison with aesthetic.

Cassidy’s sculptures aren’t done a disservice by their intrinsic simplicity. On an aesthetic level, each is more impressive than the next. Each is forged from steel, powder-coated and painted, leaving a finish not unlike something you’d see on an automobile. The size of each piece varies but all are definitely on the larger side with some reaching up to five feet tall.

The Sound of Everything: Flute breaks away from the pack in terms of form. The piece aptly represents the sound of a flute — leaving it smaller, compacted, elegant, and somewhat segmented. In the same way, The Sound of Everything: Gathering Storm is easily the most imposing of the offerings. Here, Cassidy moves away from the clean lines and smooth surface he had wielded in his previous pieces and brings to life the rumbling hush, and occasional thunder, of an oncoming storm-front with jagged vertices, rough broken lines, and triangular forms. The blue-grey surface is pitted and dented, making the powder coat cave in interesting craters and empty spaces. Gathering Storm, while not as tall as

some of the other works, takes up an enormous amount of space, confining it to its own showroom within the intimate Ross Gallery. This arrangement allows Gathering Storm to stand out without visual competition and really lets the audience take in unimpeded its interior and exterior from all angles, which does the piece a great service.

The Sound of Everything is a show you should go to if maybe you thought fine art wasn’t for you, or if you thought abstract painting or sculpture was meaningless or complicated. Cassidy’s works are not only beautiful in a purely visual sense, but they carry with them a deep understanding of the way humans think. These abstractions may be just that, abstract, but they represent the way we humans take in the real world around us, and they do so in a way that is challenging, captivating and instant.

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