Sculptor Lipski turns trash into treasure


Donald Lipski speaks in Lexington, KY. Photo by Joshua Qualls

Takireeana Neal

UK’s new exhibiting artist takes the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” to a whole other level. Donald Lipski is a sculptor that is known for his many large scale public art pieces, installations and sculptures.

Lipski visited the UK Art Museum on Monday, Oct. 17 to discuss his works with museum director Stuart Horodner. In particular, he discussed his piece displayed in the UK Art Museum titled “Pieces of String Too Short to Save.” He describes this sculpture as the “end of an era” in his artwork.

“As sort of a parting gesture, I put materials that I had never gotten around to using in my artwork, and put them in an enormous pile in the Brooklyn Museum,” Lipski said.

Lipski, who was born in Chicago to a bicycle shop owner, has always been involved in art. He says just like the kids who would draw all the time, he would instead be making things.

“I recall getting some tools and carving wood,” Lipski said. “I’ve always had an aptitude for working in three dimensions.”

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Throughout high school, Lipski had support and encouragement from his art teachers that led him to submit a piece to the Scholastic Art Award, which he won. Winning the award is what Lipski said made him realize he had talent.

In his adult life, Lipski began sculpting after a stint in ceramics and gained recognition for his sculpture “Gathering Dust.” From there, he received three National Endowment for the Arts grants and many awards including the “Rome Prize of The American Academy in Rome” in 2000. Another of Lipski’s pieces titled “Schramm Pile” is made up of 250,000 packets of dice and board game pieces.

“Making things out of objects that already exist really became my way of working,” Lipski said.

Lipski says he is influenced by just being in his studio working and also seeing artwork by other talented artists.

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“I’m influenced by contemporary artists who were making art the same time I was like, John Baldessari and Robert Morris,” Lipski said. “But it’s almost wrong to pick out any particular artist.”

According to Lipski, he is now in a new era of his art that focuses on making art for public spaces. He likes that instead of the “self-chosen” audiences in the past. His work in public spaces will now reach more people.

“The difference between that and what I do now is the way the public interacts with it,” Lipski said.

Lipski says he hopes to give viewers understanding about how pivotal and important this work is in the whole history of artwork. Currently Lipski is working on public space pieces in a park in Philadelphia, a bridge in Virginia Beach and a creation center in Calgary.