Most art enthusiasts agree that the enjoyment of a piece of work is really twofold. First, there is the interest in the work itself, the joy of responding to a piece which is pleasing or challenging or both. The second pleasure comes from stepping back to watch others as they experience the work. Sculptor Brower Hatcher's Seer, an impressive combination of symbols, steel, clay, and rock created for Brigham Young University's Museum of Art, is a piece that offers these two pleasures in abundance. The 22-foot high, 8-foot wide sculpture dominates the Museum's entry hall, its imposing size and modern construction illuminated by the sunlight streaming through a domed skylight above. As one cranes her head back to take it all in, the question comes: "What was he thinking?"
What do artists "think" as they create? Is the creative process structured? Is it random? Can it be explained in concrete terms, or is it a matter of sensibility? How does understanding an artist's process enhance our appreciation for his or her work? Soon after Hatcher was commissioned to create a sculpture for the Museum, a companion documentary film that would follow the creation of the work was proposed. This effort challenged the film makers to document the creative process of one medium, in this case sculpture, in the completely different medium of film.
To director Steve Olpin, the starting point was obvious: aim the camera at Hatcher and let him share all the stages of creation, including his initial thoughts and research, the phases of construction and assembly, his sources of inspiration, and finally the naming of his work. Yet as the film progressed, it became more than a straightforward documentary.
Poetic Dreamspace grew as Seer did, images and ideas layering upon each other, with the additional elements of sound and movement reflecting, in a one-dimensional format, what Hatcher himself was creating in three dimensions. In essence, the film adeptly captures a creative process within a creative process, with both efforts culminating in an enlightening, inspiring work of art.
Atlanta native Brower Hatcher was born just months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Against the backdrop of genocide, the civil rights movement, and women�s lib, he studied engineering and industrial design. Early on, Hatcher began to channel his passion for construction into works that felt eclectic, as if building allowed him to make sense of the world around him by connecting material, environmental, and symbolic dots.
While the work must be visually appealing, Hatcher's desire to convey significant meaning is his primary goal. He wants the viewer to see his work and keep seeing it until ideas and connections emerge which are personally significant. Perhaps this is the most valuable contribution of this film: it allows viewers to comprehend Seer in ways that are not possible with the eye alone, thereby enhancing Hatcher's primary aim. The camera takes us into the structure. Images of wing-shaped, multicolored glass that tops the sculpture are juxtaposed against the sandstone and clay at the base of the sculpture with no visual interruption by the middle section of the piece. Later, the sculpture's middle section, a geometric steel web in which symbolic objects are suspended, is explored by a camera that also seems part of the web. Throughout the piece, Hatcher explains his choices, instincts, and ideas. Olpin takes these conversations and layers them in a way that makes Hatcher's very words seem weblike. In the end, the film is as organic a reflection of Seer and Brower Hatcher as it possibly could be, artistically and cinematically, wherein viewers are led to experience insights and connections that are enriching, intriguing, and poetic.