Nancy Imperiale, Sentinel Staff Writer Orlando Sentinel .
Orlando, Fla.:  Jan 13, 2004.   pg. E.1
Copyright 2004 by The Orlando Sentinel)
Nancy Imperiale can be reached at or 407-650-6323.


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 Wisniewski.

"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 Wednesday.

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 for me."

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

Schreyer, Peter,  Eyfells, Kristin