Sympathy, empathy, and reflection are what Rudy Shepherd, associate professor of art, hopes his series of Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber sculptures bring to their audience.
“Though I didn’t necessarily envision these sculptures as a series, I feel that they continue to make sense as a positive gesture to tragic events that continue to unfold in the world around us, and the attempt to expunge negative energy from the viewer as a response to those events,” said Shepherd.
Shepherd was in his third year of a pre-med trajectory as an undergraduate student when he took his first art class, igniting his passion for art, and leading him to graduate with degrees in both art and biology. Although his graduate studies focused solely on art, the concept of healing, addressed in his pre-med classes, still influences his work today.
The tragic events of 9/11 have also had a profound effect on Shepherd’s creative process, but his work has always been inspired by tragedies in the world around us, and the political views tied to them. After 15 years of creating political art where his pieces were tied to a specific event or tragedy, Shepherd found that the more specific the piece, the more likely it was to prompt adversarial, highly-politicized discussions. This encouraged him to take a different approach with his Black Rock Negative Energy Absorbers. “These sculptures are meant to be a counterpoint to what can seem like vast, unsolvable problems,” he said.
While his sculptures are still very much intended to be a reflection of tragic events happening in our world, and may be tied to a specific event for him, Shepherd leaves it up to the viewers to interpret and connect to the sculpture in their own individual way. He envisioned the Black Rock Negative Energy Absorbers as a peaceful space for open dialogue and healing, encouraging viewers to look at situations around them in a more sympathetic way. “Though viewers may have differing opinions, the atmosphere of empathy that the Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber brings lends to more open dialogues and healing,” he said. “The sculptures act as a mechanism to expunge negative energy from viewers, enabling them to respond to life in more open, compassionate and positive ways.”