SCULPTOR WILL SHAPE A NEW LIFE
THE AVANT-GARDE JOHANN EYFELLS,
KNOWN FOR MASSIVE WORKS OF METAL AND WOOD,
WILL RESETTLE IN TEXAS, A STATE MORE HIS SIZE.
Sentinel Staff Writer .
Orlando Sentinel .
Orlando, Fla.: Jan 13, 2004. pg. E.1
Copyright 2004 by The Orlando
Nancy Imperiale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Johann Eyfells, one of
Central Florida's most renowned artists, is moving to Texas.
"Sneaking out of town," is how he puts it.
That's hard to do, considering Eyfells, 80, is taking with him his massive
sculptures, which have long rested in the front yard of his home near Oviedo
along Tuskawilla Road.
Born in Iceland, the avant-garde sculptor moved to Central Florida 34 years
ago to teach art at the University of Central Florida. Over the years his
techniques -- he coined the word receptualism to explain his style -- and
his massive sculptures have attracted attention at exhibitions across the
world, including the 1993 Venice Biennale.
They also drew attention at home. People often commented on the giant
sculptures of wood and metal that dotted his yard. Some loved them and
enjoyed driving by them.
But at least one person complained to Seminole County that a new sculpture
was too close to a public sidewalk, said code-enforcement officer Donna
"There were concerns about a nearby middle school and students walking by
it," she said.
In October, code officials visited Eyfells' home and determined "what he had
on the site at that time was OK," she said. The matter was closed.
But apparently not for the artist.
The incident convinced him that moving might be "the right thing after all,"
Eyfells said last week. The artist wore a dark suit and knit tie splotched
with dried mud as he used a Bobcat loader to move giant pieces into crates
padded with mattresses. As his long grayish- sandy hair whipped in the wind,
he remarked that everything should be packed and gone "in trucks" by
Eyfells said he planned to retain ownership of his 6,000-square- foot
Central Florida house and would "be in Orlando quite frequently."
"I'm just a guy who's finding a better spot for some of the activities I
do," he said. "I'm moving to a four-lane highway. . . . No one will tell
me to move anything when I get to Texas."
Eyfells was emphatic about not wanting a newspaper story on his move.
"This is no big deal," he said.
Friends and fans would beg to differ.
"What do you mean, he's leaving?" said a disappointed Arthur Blumenthal,
director of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College. "He's had such
a long, long career here, and gotten national and international attention. .
. . This is a real loss."
Among artists who know Eyfells, the news was greeted like an obituary.
"He's the foremost living artist in Central Florida, as far as I'm
concerned," said potter Del Seaman of Oviedo. "He was the artist when we
were first trying to figure out what art was."
"Johann has been very influential in a lot of people's artwork around here,"
agreed Seaman's wife, Barbara Walker-Seaman, owner of the Artistic Hand
gallery in Oviedo. "Whenever you'd see him, he'd really encourage the
artistic and creative energy. He really said, `Go, Barbara, go!' "
But now it's Eyfells who's going, to Fredericksburg, Texas, 70 miles west of
Austin in the heart of Texas hill country.
He told friends he has purchased a ranch there.
"I thought it was tremendous. He's so excited about it," said Peter
Schreyer, executive director of Crealde School of Art, which has a piece by
Eyfells in its sculpture garden. "I think it's great for a man his age to
take on a new project. . . . Why is he leaving? It might just be another
adventure for him."
Eyfells retired from UCF five years ago, after teaching there 29 years. In
July 2002 he lost his beloved wife of 53 years, painter Kristin Eyfells.
Eyfells has also been open about his feelings of "underappreciation" in
Central Florida, Schreyer said.
"I don't think the area has paid enough tribute to him," Schreyer said. "I'm
not blaming anyone in particular. . . . But that's not uncommon. It
happens a lot of time to artists, that sort of in their hometown, they're
taken for granted."
Some may have found Eyfells' work inaccessible, with its molten properties
and the words Eyfells created to explain it -- collapsion, receptualism,
truthicity -- difficult to fathom.
"I think the public of course is going to have trouble deciphering work
which is so deeply intellectual," said Richard Colvin, curator of Maitland
Art Center. "The way that Johann thinks and works is so brilliant, it's
almost like trying to read code."
Eyfells gave one of his artworks a 4-foot-high pillared object called "Receptual
Form" -- to the Maitland Art Center as he prepared to leave town.
"He didn't really tell me a reason," Colvin said. "He just said he was
getting ready to move to Texas where he had more room to store his stuff and
more room to continue to work."
The artist himself was offering no easy explanations.
"There's no story here," Eyfells said over the weekend as he bent to force a
round metal disc into a crate with a crowbar. "Just a more promising future
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction
or distribution is prohibited without permission.
Schreyer, Peter, Eyfells, Kristin
LIFE & TIMES