US: Zimbabwean artist Percy Kuta in residency at Carving Studio and Sculpture Center

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By Sophia Buckley-Clement

WEST RUTLAND — Zimbabwean sculpture artist Percy Kuta has long used nature as an inspiration for his art — and for the next two months he will do so with Vermont in mind at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center.

Kuta, 41, will be the artist-in-residence at CSSC until the end of June, working with Vermont marble for the first time.

“What brings me here is the cultural exchange, the chance to interact with a lot of other people and artists and work with the beautiful marble here,” Kuta said.

A sculptor of over 20 years, Kuta lives in the well-known artist community of Tengenenge, Zimbabwe, and primarily uses serpentine rock for his creations.

In his career, he has been recognized for several awards, including “Most Promising Prominent Artist” under the banner Africa Artistic in 2017. Additionally, his work has been featured in galleries across the United States and Europe.

CSSC Executive Director Carol Driscoll said that she first heard of Kuta’s work from another artist who was a resident at the center several years ago. She added that Kuta was originally selected as a resident in 2020, but due to the pandemic and other circumstances, the residency was pushed until now.

“I think the Artist Advisory Committee just thought he had a really unique voice. He works mostly in stone, he has won awards, and he just seemed to be a very clearly dedicated artist,” Driscoll said. “His work is three-dimensional, but there’s almost as much space as there is stone. And then the contrast with the way he finishes his pieces — some parts can be shiny, others stippled — just makes a really nice contrast with the form. It creates something you enjoy looking at.”

Having arrived at CSSC a little over a week ago, Kuta said he has already begun working on four smaller sculptures while he is still “feeling out the texture of the marble.”

“Personally, I am inspired by nature. When I was a young (artist), I used to look at the clouds and watch their movement. The shadow of the trees when it’s night, the leaves when they come off the tree and there’s this pressure when they dry up and change their shapes, also the movement of water — everything is art,” Kuta said.

He added that he also uses concepts like balance, quitting bad habits to form healthy ones, shared connection and the feelings that accompany revealing secrets to inform and give emotion to his work.

Don Ramey, a sculptor who is working on a monument for the Rutland Sculpture Trail that honors Rutland restauranteurs Ernie and Willa Royal, said that it has been great to work alongside Kuta and that he has been adapting to the environment incredibly well.

“His work is very organic, abstract forms that are really well-crafted. He really takes the time to get in and make the contours nice and do great finishing work,” Ramey said. “I gave him a couple extra chunks of stones from my stone yard, and he’s been going to town.”

Ramey added that he is looking forward to people having the chance to meet Kuta, especially the interns and participants of CSSC’s summer programs who will begin arriving next month.

According to Driscoll, Kuta will also be giving an Artist Talk next month once things get a bit livelier at the center. A date for his Artist Talk has yet to be set.

In terms of what he will be talking about, Kuta said he has yet to decide the topics he will be covering, adding that “as an artist, I’m not supposed to plan, I’m supposed to answer questions.”

Driscoll said she is looking forward to seeing what Kuta creates throughout the next month and a half and that even after only a week, he’s already made an impression on her and the center as a whole.

“At one point I asked him, ‘Have you anything in mind for titles of your pieces while you’re (creating?)’ And he said, ‘It’s like writing a novel. When asked about a title and you’re only on chapter four, you don’t know how it’s going to end,’” Driscoll said. “That still resonates with me.”