EVANSVILLE —A raccoon will prowl, a catfish will cruise and a stag beetle will scuttle over tulip and sweet gum leaves, but you'll have to use patience and imagination to spot them in the lacy, layered patterns of "Vibrant River," the stainless steel sculpture that will drape a corner of the Ford Center next year.
Finding many of those images and others drawn from Evansville's riverbanks, Angel Mounds and the old growth forest of Wesselman Woods, will likely prove elusive even for the five dozen people who got a detailed look at them at the Evansville Museum, Thursday, when Roger White Stoller, "Vibrant River's" creator, offered a PowerPoint peek at the public art project.
Before detailing this design, Stoller, 58, outlined his own aesthetic genesis, beginning in his 20s when he worked as an assistant to futurist and geodesic dome champion R. Buckminster Fuller and rubbed elbows with the renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi. He went to work in industrial design and to teach design at California's San Jose State University before devoting himself entirely to sculpture in the late 1990s.
Since then, the California artist as created private and public sculptures across the country, including commissions for Google in Mountain View, Calif., and other clients, including the Strathmore Hall Arts Center in Bethesda, Md. and the Airport Gateway in Stockton, Calif.
Stoller's design for the Ford Center sculpture beat out 42 other proposals submitted by artists and designers from across the nation to win the $200,000 commission.
It incorporates his fascination with light, form, surface and patterns drawn from nature, science and mathematics. He focused on nature and history for "Vibrant River," in easily recognizable and in more ambiguous elements.
Nobody should have trouble making out Evansville's loop in the Ohio River, or the expanding rings emanating from the Ford Center's location on the 15-foot wide, 40-foot tall vertical rectangle of 36 laser-cut steel panels that will fold around the Downtown arena's northwest corner.
And many will find the staghorn beetle, a woodpecker and an ancient sun symbol, a visual reference Mississippian tribe that once lived at Angel Mounds, in the layers of patterns that frame the river.
But the catfish, the raccoon and many of the other elements in his design are more difficult to discern, however.
That is by design, said Stoller. He doesn't plan on offering a "map" of the imagery, and only showed drawing details to the museum audience to prove their existence, he said. "You can let people know these things really are in there."
Stoller wants to challenge viewers but not frustrate them. Rather he invites them to view "Vibrant River," as they might see a cloud or an inkblot, imaging their own images in its lines, contours and layered patterns.
"I very much would like people to find their own shapes in there," he said.
The Evansville Museum Contemporaries brought Stoller to Evansville for his presentation, Thursday. With the design work completed, he and his production team are ready to begin work on the laser-cut stainless steel project, created in 36 panels that will hand from 200 wall anchors, some 20 feet above the sidewalk.
"We'll be back in a year, and you can see us climbing on the wall, putting it up," he said.