Playing with Color: The Artist Who Makes Magic

Narendra Patel

 Narendra Patel talks about his career, his influences, and what inspired the sculpture that welcomes visitors to East High

By Hannah Bensen, Current Staff

Soon a plaque will be added to the colorful sculpture in the East yard.

The sculpture, titled “Confluence,” was designed by artist Narendra Patel. The plaque will be placed on the base of the sculpture for viewers to read. Since the sculpture is owned by the West Bend Friends of Sculpture, that organization will decide the final wording of the plaque, with input from the artist. Patel’s wife, Durga, says that the plaque might be installed before the school year ends.

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“Confluence.” Photograph by Lauren Sorensen, Editor in Chief.

Traditionally plaques provide the artist’s name, the artwork’s name, the date of creation, and who helped fund the art.

“This sculpture is about the ripples of confluence,” Patel said, calling it a color play tribute to the people of West Bend. Right now he’s thinking about adding the following to the plaque: “Do walk around, pausing and discovering the magical moments it avails at different seasons and different times.”

Born and raised in India, Patel was drawn to art at a young age. While the arts were clearly his passion, he did not know if he would be successful making money as an artist. However, he took the risk and got degrees in painting, sculpting, and product design at the prestigious Maharaja Sayajirao University in India.

During his training, Patel was not allowed to sell his art pieces.

“Artists should do anything that [they] want to without any pressure of money or temptation to sell. If you have temptation to sell, then real art cannot come,” Patel said.

While this philosophy will produce beautiful works of art, it might not support a person financially. After his training, Patel sold some of his works and earned a fair amount of money, which he decided he would use to advance in his field by going to graduate school in Michigan. He earned a master’s degree in sculpture from Wayne State University in Detroit, and also a fine arts master’s degree in product design from Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Patel has found success since coming to the United States. One of his sculptures can be found at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he taught for 29 years. His art can also be seen around West Bend. Regner Park holds his sculptures “Nice Spirit” and “Ornithopod.” Another sculpture, “Paridisadae,” can be found in Riverside Park.

The Current sat down with Narendra Patel and his wife Durga Patel at their home in Whitefish Bay to discuss his approach to art.

What inspired your sculpture “Confluence”?
Narendra: [I was] inspired by ripples of flowing river, creating ever changing color play.

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Patel’s model of “Confluence.” Photograph by Hannah Bensen, Current Staff.

How did you create and assemble “Confluence”?
Narendra: The only model was created by me. The enlarged piece itself was fabricated by a company and painted by a different company. The whole enlarging process of fabrication, transporting and installation was supervised by me. In short, the sculpture was executed through industrial help.

When and how did you first become interested in art?
Narendra: From my onset, my childhood. The reason is, I was fortunate to go to a school which was Montessori-based. A child is left to his own desire so if the child is working in art, they will let the child do that. So I was left alone for art.

What artists have been your biggest inspiration?
Narendra: I would say, because in the beginning I was a carver, it was Henry Moore.
Durga: And [Constantin] Brâncuși.
Narendra: Yes, and Brâncuși, the sculptor. And then later on Le Corbusier, architect.

How has your art evolved over the years?
Durga: It’s still evolving.
Narendra: Generally, my art evolves from my previous work. I will always get some idea of how to move on from here to somewhere else. So if some good idea came, then I will try to put an idea in the next one. The next one will inspire something else. So the previous work is always a stepping stone for further ones.

Do you have any creative patterns, routines, or rituals before creating a piece of art?
Narendra: The only thing I do is take my body to the studio and then something starts and I get glued to it and then time goes by until she [Durga] calls me and says, “Oh, it’s lunchtime!” And I don’t know how time went by.

What is your preferred medium of art?
Narendra: In the early part [of my career], carving was my preferred at that time. But now I don’t have one particular preferred one. But I move from one to the other, it gives me a little relief, body-wise. If one muscle, one side was used then I do something less physical. As time goes by, my energy is reducing. So right now I am using a very light material, cedar wood.

Do you have a favorite piece that you have created?
Narendra: Very difficult question. So many are my favorite! Generally all the latest are my favorites because I’m closer to them. If I had a long break, maybe 20 or 15 years of break, and I see old work, then I think, “How did I do this? How beautiful it is.” I don’t remember how I did it, how many different steps I took.

Read more about “Confluence” at The Current by clicking here.

(Top image: Narenda Patel in his home art studio in Whitefish Bay. Photograph by Hannah Bensen, Current Staff.)

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Narendra Patel’s drawing for “Confluence.” Photograph by Hannah Bensen, Current Staff.

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