Marching into Art San Diego’s 10th anniversary event is the spiritual army of artist Stephen Farland — aka “The Chairman” — and Brian Sartor, master builder and artist, both of whom are destined to make a larger-than-life impact on visitors to the annual festival.
Fashioned from thousands of chairs, six giant sculptures bearing the names Victory, The Sentinel, The Guardian, Brotherly Love, The Soul Man and The Creator & Humanity are part of the touring exhibit — titled Victory — that originated at the Denver Art Museum.
All of the “soldiers,” which represent a different spiritual gift, will be featured at Art San Diego, a four-day art event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds that starts today. First displayed in 2016, the soldiers stand up to 27 feet tall and took three years to construct.
The coordinators of Art San Diego, which focuses on contemporary fine art, were so fascinated with Farland’s work that they invited him for his first West Coast exhibition.
We caught up with Farland ahead of his appearance at Art San Diego to find out more about these soldiers and his vision.
PACIFIC: How did these gigantic soldiers come to be?
STEPHEN FARLAND: When I began the odyssey, I was only 31 years old and I was searching. I stumbled into this chair warehouse, and it would take years and years to become understandable to me. It was a vision; it surrounded me. It became an emotional magnet. I became obsessed with seeing these soldiers become an army. But, I didn’t say a word to anyone for almost 25 years.
Do you automatically see the chairs as specific parts of the greater whole or does it come together with the process?
I can easily see how the back of the chair could be a side of a body or a face. When I met Brian Sartor, he understood my vision and he works on it from his perspective. He understands what I am thinking and starts to assemble pieces that are unique and inspiring. I was having this vision when Brian was a boy, and things lined up that years later we would meet.
How many chairs go into a sculpture?
The Sentinel has over 100 chair arms that make up just one arm. The Sentinel was the first soldier built, and it easily has 300 to 400 pieces, probably 20 to 30 chair shapes, like backs, arms, and stretchers.
The Victory soldier appears to be in a seated yoga position. Was that an intentional spiritual statement?
It’s fascinating the interpretations of it. When we created it, the box and chairs it came from was made in Poland, and the idea of the vision was it is exploding out of its confinement and reaching for freedom. Think about it: These chairs were living, breathing trees in Poland during WW2. The DNA of war is in these chairs. Victory is the essence of seeing someone in spiritual achievement that society recognizes, and it lifts us all up.
Do you see your soldiers as spiritual warriors?
Yes, you could say that. They fight for the good and help people overcome their fears, not by pushing them, but beckoning them. The scale was important, so that the viewer would be the size of a 1- to 2-year-old, and see the soldiers as a child views a parent. Imagine a giant picking you up!
What’s the message you want to send with these soldiers?
It’s a broken world, we all feel that for different reasons. But, are the pieces better apart or when they are put back together with love? I want to share this with the world, for soldiers to be everywhere, because people want love and peace... and art.
Art San Diego
When: Thursday, Oct. 18 through Sunday, Oct. 21
Where: Wyland Center at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar
Cost: Three-day pass (includes Friday Collectors’ Opening Night Party plus full weekend access): $40. Two-day pass: $25. One-day pass: $20. Discounts available. Parking: $14 per day.