John Keppelman is an artist living and working in the Northwest, who taught at Western’s Department of Art & Art History for a few years. His sculpture, Garapata, was made during the late 1970s and was donated to the University several years later. Keppelman was not involved in the selection of this work for Western. However, he was involved in choosing the appropriate site for the sculpture which has a specific orientation or viewing direction. In speaking of the general concept, he spoke first about the process which allowed him to find an abstract sense of motion.
“Garapata was done in 1979 and purchased by Annie Dillard and Gary Clevidence who gave it to the University when they left Bellingham. It was one of a series of pieces where I was working with folded paper. My method was to cut and fold paper in a very automatic way to avoid any specific ideas about the intent of the work and where it was going, and to get in touch with my unconscious self and maybe find some forms that were surprising and interesting. I would fold and cut until I found a shape that pleased me and then stop to figure out if it could be executed in another form. Most of those pieces were intended originally to be wall works. Very few actually ended up being pieces that would stand on posts because the shape had to have certain characteristics to work in that manner. But the quality of the shape, the way it functions in terms of two- dimensions versus three-dimensions, is the same on a post as it would be in a wall piece. If you look at Garapata, it postures a wall, an imaginary wall or flat plane which is behind the piece or which is the basis for the back plane of that piece.”
“My titles often have to do with experiences I have had as a child in certain places or experiences in nature as an adult while traveling. Garapata is a place – it is a canyon and a small river which runs out of the Big Sur area in California which was a playground for me as a kid. I think there is a connection in my mind between the way in which that sculptural shape seems to soar and the sort of mythic beauty that particular area of California has.”
“These pieces work like signs and they work best along the edges of public spaces. They relate to wall pieces in the sense that they directly orient you as a viewer. They are viewable from positions on either side, but basically they tell you to get right in front of them; they aren't intended to be seen from behind. So, when I sited that piece in its present location, I was looking for a spot where viewers passing along the pathway or road would be able to see the piece and not get behind it. It is an unusual siting for sculpture because normally, of course, sculpture is seen completely in the round. In the case of my work, that is not true.”