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Young sculptor is inspired by literature

On Nov. 3, at the Anne Springs Close Gallery at York Technical College in Rock Hill, Gina Bruce will, for the first time in her artistic life, offer to the public a remarkable showing of her sculpture.

This will be a moment for all of us to see the work of a woman who has a husband, two sons, a dog who irritates her neighbors and a few cats that would be homeless without her loving care. There are squirrels that have discovered her open heart for lost souls or suffering animals, and those who are in need wait in the trees for her. Gina is a caretaker, and that trait has found its way into her artistic renditions that have encompassed many famous characters in the world of literature. She, in her outstanding talent, has become a woman who honors fine writers with classic sculptured portrayals of never-to-be-forgotten literary characters.

Eudora Welty, in her story, "A Worn Path," is honored and remembered by Bruce with her amazing sculpture of Old Phoenix, the aged black woman who walked miles in worn shoes to buy her ailing grandson a gift, which she purchased with the nickel given by a friend. She proudly walked home carrying a "whirlygig."

The sculpture of that venerable character is immortalized by Gina in a 22-inch piece shaped from polymer clay and hand painted. This three dimensional art tells the story. Phoenix wears frayed shoes; the folds of her apron cling to crooks of her orthopedically impaired body. Her hair creeps from under the worn "do-rag" and she seems to teeter on the cane she carries in her right hand. The whirlygig almost twirls in the imaginary air that moves the old woman forward. The sculpture is the story that Welty heartbreakingly told in her tale of Southern lore.

The work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is honored by a teasing rendition of a hound constructed of Earthenware and kiln fired at 1,800 degrees. The frightening legend controlled the Baskerville family in frozen terror for at least three generations. He wandered across the moors and was held responsible for mysterious deaths and horrifying howls that filled the lonely countryside in this literary composition until Bruce decided that the reader deserved a good laugh, so she simply made this paragon of terribleness scratch, probably by only one flea that was brave enough to enter Doyle's world of paralyzing fear.

Louise Gluck, of "Gretel in Darkness" fame, is one of the great poets of the 20th century who inspired Bruce to create a sculpture of stark and compelling appearance. The piece is shaped from polymer and porcelain clays, hand finished and unfired. Her facial features clearly show a woman who spent time questioning the values of family security in a life dedicated to socially ordained values and the merits of idealized spinsterhood. She stands in regal form representing a poem, masterfully written by the Pulitzer Prize winner. While Gluck's stark language is at times questioned by the critics, Gina Bruce captures the literary essence of the dramatic phrasing and the compelling meter. Her interpretation of Gretel is truly astonishing.

When August Wilson wrote the story "Fences," he let the reader see the trails and struggles of a black family in the 1950s through 1965. At times, the main character, Troy Maxson, dives into controversy trying to find fairness in a world where there is little.

Gina, in her aptitude for understanding the character, carefully molded the red earthenware fired at a low temperature. The finished product offers us a face that presents the solid determination his life has shaped. His attitude and his moral character show in every wrinkle. When the story is read, it is easy to see just how well Bruce understood the writer's intent.

These are only a few of the writers represented. Bruce has delved into the complicated writing of William Faulkner in his "Barn Burning" and the main character Colonel Sartoris Snopes. She read through "Turkish Pears in August" by Robert Bly, and naturally constructed three pears of earthenware clay, fired at 2,300 degrees and then burnished with a copper and sand glaze. Elegant fruit to sit on a table and offer lovely light and form to any room. You also will be offered Gina's rendition of Papa from William P. Young's book "The Shack." Again this artist delves into the character of the protagonist and comes up with a perfect physical example of what the writer must have had in mind.

Susan Glaspell's "Trifles" offered Bruce an opportunity to shape in porcelain clay and not fired an example of Mrs. Wright, the lead character in the story. Gina excels at facial interpretation and in this piece her talent shines.

The Nov. 3 showing might well be the beginning of a fulfilling artistic life for this young woman. She is creative and talented. She is shy about her work, and she needs for people to see what she can do and to hear what they have to say. So, please, do yourselves a favor, go to see Gina Bruce's work. She needs you.

The sculpture will be on display during library hours, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.