Strong Work Ethic Leads ASU Graduate to Success with Public Art Sculpture

December 8, 2022

Chris Luper integrates digital technology into traditional foundry methods

Chris Luper has always had a strong work ethic, sometimes working multiple jobs at once.

He ultimately decided to focus this discipline on earning a degree, and he now has a Master of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute of Design and Art. He specializes in large scale cast metal sculptures.

Along the way, he still worked a lot of jobs. He was a foundry teaching assistant at ASU for three years and worked at the Bollinger Workshop in Tempe, an art foundry and fabrication studio.

“I’m kind of a workaholic,” said Luper, who is from Chicago.

Mary Neubauer, the President’s sculpture professor at the School of Art, said she loves co-teaching with Luper.

“He has shown a remarkable ability to connect with a wide range of students and inspire them with a giving attitude and inspiring work ethic,” she said.

“His practice in the studio is remarkable. He works up to 35 hours a week doing monumental work for notable international artists, then goes into the studio and devotes time to his own work until the wee hours of the morning, working prolifically, resulting in an exhibition of thesis that is impeccably professional and developed. He is a role model for everyone. »

Luper has also won several top honors, including the internationally competitive HH Harris Metallurgical Fellowship and a place in the 2022 Digital Stone Project in Tuscany, Italy, where he produced two stone sculptures through milling processes. robotized. He is also a winner of Scottsdale Public Art’s INFLUX program, with work currently on display at Scottsdale Road and Roosevelt Street.

Two stone sculptures

Chris Luper produced two stone sculptures through robotic toolpath milling processes for the Digital Stone 2022 project in Italy.

He started by taking painting classes at the community college.

“I was doing this part-time job on top of a full-time job, and I wanted to put the same energy into my academic experience and pursue something that I was more passionate about,” he said.

“I was a late bloomer, so I didn’t go back to academia until I was 24.”

He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

“Sculpture was one of my interests in high school and I was more into that than two-dimensional art. My undergraduate painting revolved around sculpture,” he said.

“I was always trying to integrate sculpture into painting or painting into sculpture.”

Luper works with a variety of alloys, including silicon aluminum, gray cast iron, copper, brass, pewter and pewter.

Here he answers some questions from ASU News.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to be an artist?

Answer: When I was working on my three-job setup, people would ask me, “What do you do? or, “What are you doing?” And I would only share my artwork. A painting of King Tut was one of my first paintings. It was photo-realistic and took me a semester and a half to complete, but it was amazing. That was what I liked to share with people. I was working security at a bar or at an x-ray center and I was showing it to people and they were like, ‘Why not do that?

Q: Why did you choose ASU for your master’s?

A: I was accepted into this program as a painter. I didn’t have enough sculptural works to be accepted into a 3D program. In first year, my painting teacher told me: “Your 3D work is more interesting. You should expose that and you can always go back to painting. Hearing that was reassuring.

The other determining factor was that the foundry program here was very much on my wavelength. Mary (Neubauer) is old school in her way of teaching. It’s a very well-structured and community-based effort, which is what I was looking for in a program. I didn’t want to be a hermit in my studio. In a foundry, you need other people to help you produce your work. To get things done, you can’t do it alone.

It’s an adrenaline-pumping experience, so everyone is very alert to the dangers involved. It’s creative but also very industrial.

Q: One of your jobs was as a craftsman at Bollinger Atelier. How is?

A: Working there was amazing. I tried to make myself a reliable employee. They recognize the efforts of academics. I started in the metal hunting department and today our casting captain was away so I had to sink. We pour in 300 pounds of bronze and 350 pounds of aluminum every day.

I’ll do that full time when I graduate, as an assistant to the captain, who’s like the relief pitcher for the captain.

Q: What was it like to create a huge piece of public art for a busy intersection in Scottsdale?

A: It’s been the most exciting year of my life. It was a budget of $6,000. I have never received such a budget for a public art commission – or even for a public art piece. It took me four months to do it, then I installed it and had to fly to Italy the next day for the Digital Stone Project with Mary.

My students and colleagues helped me through the process and Bollinger helped me with the molding. It was a wonderful experience to learn this in greater depth compared to the small scale done at the ASU foundry.

Q: What did you learn at ASU that changed your perspective?

A: ASU is an amazing research center and I learned how to incorporate digital media into my practice. Scanning, printing and rapid prototyping are a big part of my practice. I still operate on the artisanal process but also on the digital.

Q: Where is your favorite place on campus?

A: The Art Building, without a doubt. Other than that, I don’t get out of my bubble much. It’s not just a facility, but there are always other people working there. There are always a few diehard foundry students around and you can get some extra help.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem, what would you do?

A: I would probably donate it to art school because I strongly believe in STEAMscience, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics instead of STEMscience, technology, engineering and mathematics. The arts have been downplayed a bit and the creative element needs to be brought back.

The rest would go to researching new 3D printing methods. We have some amazing things going on at ASU right now – 3D printing with marble dust and with metal and glass. Integrating technology further into artists’ endeavors is where I would present most of my research.

I would also like to keep the traditional elements of the foundry. It’s one of those arts where the practice falters a bit because of the element of green thinking. We are trying to move away from burning coal-based fuel for the process.

Top photo: Chris Luper is pictured with his bronze work ‘Fragmented Reflection’, part of the public artwork produced through Scottsdale Public Art’s INFLUX program, located on the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Roosevelt Street. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

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