November 29, 2021

Music legacy sculpture in full swing

Photos by Katie Keyser/contributing photographer

The plan for a wall sculpture that Scott Oldfield is making now in his studio. Metal and LED light strips are on the background.

Scott Oldfield is enjoying the steady pace of his latest public artwork at SUNY Cortland — a wall sculpture that will highlight the college’s musical legacy between 1960 and 1990.

“It’s getting there. It’s all detail now,” said the lecturer in the Art and Art History Department at SUNY Cortland.

Oldfield, 39, a 2006 SUNY Cortland graduate, a mixed media artist and sculptor, is creating a 15- by 12-foot interactive piece with symbolic steel instruments, against a background of steel and LED blue light bands, working with the Musical Legacy Committee in its design.

The lights will illuminate to the beat of music played at Corey Union, where it will be displayed.

Student organizers and college staff brought in scores of musical greats, from the Duke Ellington Orchestra in in the ‘60s, Grateful Dead and Billy Joel in the ‘70s, Chuck Mangione in the ‘80s and The Kinks in ‘90s. There were hundreds of others.

The committee is raising money for the $30,000 project from alumni and community. It will debut in July.

“Obviously, the Musical Legacy Committee is very excited about it,” said Sonia Socha of Baltimore, member of the steering committee for the Musical Legacy Commemorative Project. She thinks it will be the first such memorial among campuses nationwide.

Oldfield took the committee’s ideas and shared sketches back and forth to arrive at the design.

The artist is patterning one steel guitar from a Tiger guitar, the kind Jerry Garcia used. He is making the bass like a Fender P bass that was commonly used by the likes of Guess Who and the Beach Boys, who both appeared in Cortland. The trumpet is patterned off a Conn trumpet commonly used by big bands. The instruments will project a foot off the wall.

Scott Oldfield, a SUNY Cortland art instructor, is in the midst of creating a wall sculpture that will commemmorate the musical legacy of the college from the ’60s to the ’90s. He is seen here in his studio on March 26.

“It will grow off the wall,” Oldfield said. “As they get higher, I can have them come off the wall more. The mic will be functional. If it’s taken off the wall, this can be used.”

It will point to the’ 60s to ‘90s style, but its insides will feature current technology.

“It will be interactive. I don’t know how long that will last,” Oldfield said.

This is the second installation for Oldfield, whose 10-foot-high, 26-foot-long Red Dragon sculpture that can emit smoke out of its mouth, was unveiled in 2017 at the SUNY Cortland stadium complex.

Scott Oldfield’s Red Dragon mascot sculpture at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.

“That was fun,” said Oldfield, who teaches drawing. He’s also a Cortland and Homer Junior High substitute teacher, married to Natalie and father to Alice and Rowan.

Alumni also want a vinyl record and the Cortland dragon logo on the piece, he said.

“Public art gets people to think,” said Kat McCarthy, executive director of the Cultural Council of Cortland County. “It’s a really great visual experience of creativity. Art brings people together.”

“I think it’s very exciting,” Socha said. “It captures the essence of what we are trying to communicate.”

Oldfield has more in mind. “I would like to see those metal strips in the background as history, engraved with the names of the bands …. or responses to the music,” he said. “Whether that comes about, we don’t know.”

Socha wants to see a list of the bands and acts that appeared, that can be accessed by touch. That too, is up in the air.

Oldfield has been involved in the project for a year and a half, much of that time planning the piece. Later, he made drawings that became cardboard patterns, that became steel cut outs and melded them into replicas. Now he is working on details that will bring the instruments to life.

“I work on this after hours, after the kids are in bed,” he said. It’s a slower pace than the dragon sculpture.

The dragon sculpture was supposed to be a year long project. Then college officials said they needed it done in six months. “Well, let’s make it work,” Oldfield said. “Every day I had to do something.”

“Oh my God, I can’t believe I am doing this,” he said. When it was done: “Wow, I can’t believe I pushed myself to that extreme.”

“This pace is much nicer,” Oldfield said.

Oldfield will make sure the final sculpture and sound system works in his studio before it is moved to Corey Union.

“I expect it will take no more than two weeks to install,” he said.

Oldfield has seen a steady increase in artwork coming out of the college. He wants the public to appreciate that.

McCarthy said the same can be said in Cortland in general. The council’s First Friday events brings art into venues once a month.

“We just had the winter art gallery at Cortland Repertory Theatre Downtown, which was kind of a follow up of the Cabin Fever art show the year before,” McCarthy said. “That doesn’t include SUNY Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College,” and musical acts being brought in by Center for the Arts and the repertory theater.

“I think there is quite a collaborative community,” McCarthy said.