‘I am a lucky man’; Internationally exhibited, award-winning sculptor James Surls to showcase work at SUMA

"White Raw Wall Flower" by James Surls, who will have art displayed at the Southern Utah Museum of Art through Sept. 29, 2017, Cedar City, Utah | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Containing more than 50 works, including sculptures and drawings, the artistic world of the award-winning James Surls will be on display at the Southern Utah Museum of Art at Southern Utah University starting July 7.

James Surls with his sculpture “Standing Pinon Eye Flower,” circa 2017, location not specified | Photo courtesy of James Surls, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I kind of live in a made-up, fabricated dream world,” Surls said in his artist statement. “And my dream comes true…a lot.”

The contemporary artist sees the world differently than most. Using natural materials, Surls remakes his surroundings through organically shaped sculptures and drawings that capture the atmosphere of the landscape.

Nature figures are the most prominent in Surls’ sculptures and drawings. Over the course of four decades, he has developed abstract forms in wood, steel and bronze that are inspired by flowers, the human body and rock formations.

In addition to the main pieces on display, the SUMA exhibition will include a section of the gallery allowing children and families to further explore Surls’ world through artwork components they can touch and a gallery guide with instructions for an impromptu scavenger hunt.

The exhibition will also provide the opportunity to temporarily install a large sculpture on the Sam and Diane Stewart Family Foundation Plaza: “Walking through the Thorn Vine” from 2014. The sculpture is approximately 11-feet wide and 11-feet tall and illustrates a spiral of thorns and a series of eyes that double as petals.

Surls has received numerous honors for his work, including the Texas Medal of Arts Awards in the Visual Arts from the Texas Cultural Trust in 2013. He was also named Artist of the Year by the American Institute of Architecture – Houston in 2012.

“Sea Flower” by James Surls, New Bedford, Mass, Aug. 5, 2006 | Photo by LGagnon via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News / Cedar City News

His work has been displayed around the country, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. In addition to major exhibitions throughout the United States, Surls’ large works have been commissioned in Singapore, Houston, New York and Hollywood.

“Along the road I made art and curated shows with the ferocity of a man possessed,” Surls said. “I am a lucky man.”

SUMA director and curator Jessica Farling said they are honored to host such a distinguished artist.

“I hope this exhibition not only inspires and intrigues museum visitors, but that it also challenges our ideas of what art is and ultimately broadens our understanding and appreciation of art,” Farling said in a press release from SUMA.

The public opening for the exhibition is being held in conjunction with the museum’s second anniversary, during which SUMA will also be hosting a “Birthday Bash.” The event will take place July 7 from 1-4 p.m. Participants can expect many family-friendly activities, such as opportunities to create their own wire sculpture, enjoy live music and eat birthday cake.

“As part of the birthday celebration, the Friends of SUMA will also be unveiling a newly-designed membership level called SUMA Families,” Whitney Staheli, manager of finance and administration, said in the press release. “We are excited to show everyone the mascot created for SUMA Families and hope that it helps families in Cedar City get excited about their community art museum.”


Read more: Southern Utah Museum of Art offers summer fun for kids during day, adults at night


The “James Surls: Across the Universe Divide” exhibit will be on display through Sept. 29. 

A gallery talk presented by Jessica Farling will take place Sept. 6, and Surls will give a public talk on Sept. 20 in the Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center as part of the SUU department of art & design’s “Art Insights “lecture series.

Visit Cedar City’s visual arts destination this summer to see how sculptor James Surls is forging a new way of seeing and experiencing the world around us by expressing his journey through natural materials. More information about the exhibition and programs is available on the SUMA website.

Event details

  • What: Award-winning artist James Surls work on exhibit at Southern Utah Museum of Art.
  • When: July 7 – Sept. 29 | Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, with extended hours on Thursdays until 8 p.m.
  • Where: Southern Utah Museum of Art at Southern Utah University, 13 S. 300 West, Cedar City.
  • Details: Free. For more information about the museum click here. For artist information click here.

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