Ode to nature

Associate professor of art Greg Ondo teaches classes in sculpture, glass and metal casting. In his sculptures, the landscape, setting and sense of place are critical to the works’ meaning and, ultimately, their performances.


Greg Ondo:
A lot of the work that I do has a sense of place and sight that can speak to the public of the region.

For instance, with the Salmon Ladder piece, was sited at the location of the Veazie dam removal. The actual salmon ladder didn’t work to the capacity that it was designed. It was a great idea, but it didn’t quite move as many fish as the scientists would hope.

My piece looked at the cleansing through the burn of the event. The people of the region could read many things into the piece. That’s something that I also like about my work, that it doesn’t have to be defined by any one specific thing, such as Northern Lights.

People read into it immediately as an echo‑cardiogram that a cardiologist would look at or some people look at it as a river. Some people look at it and immediately say, “Oh, that’s an image of the coastline of Maine.”

There’s multiple layers, multiple facets of how the work can read.

Something that’s very important about sculpture, painting, print making, art in general is that it needs to be able to touch people on different levels and in different ways. That’s something within art that I’ve always tried to pursue and something that I, within my assignments and my classroom with students, that I have them pursue, as well.

Sometimes, we have students that come in that are naturals. They’re just a natural. They can produce. They’re producing. For those students, it’s trying to show them another way to look at it.

Then, we have students that come in that struggle. They struggle. They keep trying. We give them positive support. They keep trying. Then all of a sudden, something does click.

I’ve seen this oftentimes with students in their senior year, either in fall semester or the spring semester. They even say, “Oh my gosh, I’m on to something.”

I say, “Yes, you are. You have two months left. You have all of next semester left. Build upon this and pursue this. Now make five of these, four of these, six of these.” They begin to develop their body of work.

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, it was the physicality of it. I really enjoyed the moving of big material and shaping it in such a manner that it was physical and almost felt like a workout.

Now that I’m approaching 50 and my body is speaking to me a little bit differently, I’m venturing into other areas of smaller glass pieces. I say this, but yet, I just had a 3,000 pound log brought into my studio.

The large pieces and the physical nature of them is what started me driving that driving force. As a sculptor, we need to look at the world and materials as what material is suited for my idea.

I also like to look at other options that can speak to people differently. For instance, granite speaks to somebody very differently than a shiny piece of glass. How can they be incorporated together that creates another experience? That’s where I’m at.