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George Tobolowsky’s Sculpture: It’s a Guy Thing

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Categorized Under: Uncategorized, Visual Arts
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George Tobolowsky’s work on display at the Museum of Biblical Art. Photo: Gail Sachson.

Guest blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is the former Chair of the  Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission and the former Vice-Chair of the  Dallas Public Art Committee.

“It’s a guy thing”, says Scott Peck, Co-Director/ Curator of the Museum of Biblical Art. He is referring to the heavy steel sculpture of Goerge Tobolowsky, 2012 winner of the Dallas Historical Society’s Award for Excellence in the Creative Arts. Tobolowsky, who is also a lawyer, an entrepreneur and an arts advocate, has been seduced by sculpture ever since he was an accounting major at SMU in the 1970′s, where  he met Texas’ iconic sculptor, James Surls and began stealing time away from his studies to solder steel.

Tobolowsky’s work can be seen throughout Dallas,  in the Design District, in a 2011 installation at City Hall, in the Design District,  in private and corporate collections and in New Delhi, India next year, where he is included in the International Exhibition of six Texas artists at the National Academy of Arts. His sculpture is fabricated from discarded pieces of steel which he selects and salvages from scrapyards. He then mixes and matches the discards to make what can be viewed as a good marriage of mates never meant to be together.

Much of his  other work – not on display at the Museum – shows off his sense of humor and is inspired by his business ventures, with titles such as ” Dealbreaker”, or “the Young Daydreamer“. “Discovering the Menorah”, the show at the MBA, is inspired by his spirituality  and showcases his  Jewish ceremonial art. The show of  found drill bits, blow torches, wrenches and vices, all welded together in Tobolowsky’s Mountain Springs studio, has attracted an interested audience of both men and women, and because of its popularity , will be extended to remain through the summer.

Peck is delighted that more men are visiting the Museum and sees Tobolowsky’s work as the hook which lures them in.  “George’s work,” says Peck, “is a gateway to looking at something else in the Museum. The recognizable steel elements and the industrial look, says Peck, entreat the male visitor, usually brought in by their spouse, to look a little longer and linger”. The work may be masculine in materials, but the curves he creates and the fluidity of the work is feminine as well, affording general appeal.

The sculptures in the show range from 21 inches to over 7 feet high. Several weigh about 800 lbs. Most are Hannukah menorahs, candelabras which celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hannukah , when a minuscule  amount of oil burned for a miraculous 8 days. Several smaller table-top pieces are candelabras for the Sabbath prayers.

Some of the pieces are functional. Drill bits can be replaced by actual candles and lit. Others are merely decorative. Some are narrative. Others are historical and reference Jewish history, as steel candle morph into guns.

Peck plans an audio tour and a movie about the artist and has even placed Tobolowsky’s seven foot tall “Steel Warrior” at the entrance to the Museum, which seems to say, ” It’s a guy thing. Come on in.” A wall devoted to vistors’ comments about the show is covered with yellow sticky notes. Several read: ,”He is a man of steel”; Bless his hands”, and “Nice work for an Attorney”.