Artifacts

Lance Arnold ’66, a 1966 McGowan Award winner, has always been an artist. Growing up, he wanted to be an artist as his career, he recalls, “but my father, who was a very stern scientist at MIT, wanted me to be a scientist.” So Arnold found himself enrolled at Johns Hopkins University, but it wasn’t the best fit. After two years, he moved on to AIC, where he enrolled in the biology program.

Arnold shows the before and after of his craft, holding a small piece of found glassware against the final result, a handmade stained glass panel.
Arnold shows the before and after of his craft, holding a small piece of found glassware against the final result, a handmade stained glass panel.

WHILE AT AIC, Arnold says two instructors in particular— Dr. Isadore Cohen, who taught physiology and biology, and Dr. John Murnane, who taught marine biology— gave him a strong grounding in the concepts he would use every day as a science teacher. After graduating with a degree in biology, Arnold taught in a private school in Springfield for two years, then moved to Connecticut, where he taught for another thirty-seven years. He also earned a master’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina on a National Science Foundation grant.

Over the course of his nearly four decades at the front of the classroom, Arnold earned many accolades, including the National Association of Biology Teachers’ Outstanding Biology Teacher of Connecticut Award. He was also recognized as an Outstanding Marine Science Teacher by the Southeastern New England chapter of the National Marine Educators Association. He retired from teaching in 2005 when his wife was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease so that he could become her primary caregiver.

“AIC was really an important place for me to be at the time. … I immediately felt comfortable there. It was a very accepting place. I liked the professors and the people. I made a lot of friends. It was a good college experience.”
~Lance Arnold 66′

Arnold loved teaching, and his students loved him, but, all along, he continued to pursue art. It is his life’s calling, after all. “I started out as a photographer and had a picture published in Life magazine in 1972” as part of a contest, he says. But, over time, his art evolved. He began making wind chimes using pieces of antique bottles, spoons, and other items. He then started making chimes with colored glass instead. “I thought, ‘Well, heck, I don’t need to use bottles.’ I started to buy stained glass and found how to do that.” From there, he branched further into glass work, making elaborate stained glass panels and jewelry boxes. It was another short hop onward to sculpture, and these days he makes table-top sculpture, wall sculpture, and free hanging sculpture, and has recently added acrylic painting to his list of artistic media.

Hidden along walking trails in the woods not far from his studio are a number of "faerie houses" that Arnold has crafted and places at the bases of trees. Young hikers (and the young at heart) will enjoy the challenge of trying to spot these hidden sculptures, numbering more than a dozen in total.
Hidden along walking trails in the woods not far from his studio are a number of “faerie houses” that Arnold has crafted and placed at the bases of trees. Young hikers (and the young at heart) will enjoy the challenge of trying to spot these hidden sculptures, numbering more than a dozen in total.

Over the years, Arnold has shown his work in a variety of settings, including galleries and shops, and has juried shows across New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. He’s earned many accolades, too, including first prize for sculpture at the SoNo Arts Festival in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Arnold still uses a lot of glass in his work, but also has begun incorporating more found objects and items from the natural world—pieces of wood, seashells, beach glass, even bone and the remains of a whole horseshoe crab. He collects these items and many others that wash up on Connecticut’s beaches.

In some ways, it’s a means of coming full circle and bringing all parts of himself into his art. His walks and scavenging sessions remind him of childhood summers spent at Manomet Point in Plymouth, Massachusetts: “I spent my time in tide pools and playing with other kids and looking at all the material that washed up after storms.” Arnold says he has “a strong affiliation with the ocean,” which was reinforced during his time at AIC, when Dr. Murname, his marine biology professor, would take the class to the beach for lessons. Arnold incorporated that love of the seaside into his teaching, and it seems so very natural that the sea and her many treasures should support his art, too.

“My trend now is not just a love of the sea, but an understanding that these materials can be recycled into art,” he says. “And not just shells, but pieces of plastic and glass.”

The 1938 New England hurricane washed out many homes along the coast, and “all the debris from those houses is still being churned up,” Arnold says. Chunks of coal are common finds, especially after a storm—but so are combs. “I collected a whole bunch of hair combs, and they have lots of sand between the teeth. I made a sculpture I called Beach Combing,” a delightful pun that has a message, too, about the fragility of existence and the long arc of time in the natural world.

 

By Elaine Howley :: photos by Leon Nguyen ’16

 

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