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Vancouver's scorned sculptor
THE PROVINCE, Friday, June 23, 1972
ray chatelin

Photo credit: kenne allen

Photo credit: ross kenward

Photo credit: gordon croucher

Photo credit: kenne allen

Photo credit: kenne allen

Gerhard Juchum's statues have appeared twice in Stanley Park - and twice they have been rejected by the park board. Although he offered them without charge, he was told to remove The Spear Fisherman and The Lovers.

The Sculpture on Spotlight's cover is another rejection. Called Protest [later renamed Why], it was refussed when offered to Simon Fraser University. It now sits in Juchum's back yard with other figures.

In the interview below, the sculptor tells why he thinks his works have been spurned . . .

The boy is mute evidence that you've arrived.

He sits in front of the small frame house in an unfashionable part of town. The sculpture signals you've arrived at the residence of Gerhard Juchum - the sometimes-rejected artist.

For the second time in as many years, Juchum has had one of his works refused by the Vancouver park board - although not in what you'd call the normal way.

The first was a work called The Spear Fisherman.

The 600-pound life-size figure appeared one misty morning set upon a rock separating Second and Third beaches in Stanley Park.

It's yours free of charge, said Juchum.

Get it out of there, thundered the park board.

It's now sitting in the Vancouver Island community of Port Hardy, guarding the harbor.

Round two in this unlikely saga began earlier this month when another of Juchum's works mysteriously appeared in Stanley Park. This time it was sitting between Sunset and English Bay beaches.

Same offer, same rejection.

Indicating that politicians are either consistent or that their artistic tastes evolve over a long period of time - longer than one year.

This time it was a work called The Lovers - two young lovers facing each other.

What caught the eye, however, wasn't just the figures themselves but rather the multi-color paint on them.

"I think love is a very colorful thing," says Juchum, "and it should be presented that way. That's all."

Sitting in the middle of the living room with a glass of homebrew in his hand, Juchum doesn't appear unduly upset about the park board reaction.

Get it out of there.

At this writing, it appears that Port Alice, on the other side of the island from The Spear Fisherman, will get the work. They've asked for it should Vancouver remain adamant.

Competition for free art works appears keener outside the Lower Mainland.

Born in Romania, 34-year-old Juchum claims he doesn't want publicity.

That's not what he's seeking, he says.

A graduate of the University of Giessen in Germany, he has had exhibitions in Europe and throughout the Vancouver area. In this city for a little more than three years, he has already created 70 major works. Many have been sold.

He's working on two commissions. Families in West Vancouver and Sechelt.

No starving artist, he earns a living through his regular job with the federal government.

Vancouver, he claims, need more sculpture and that's behind his actions in giving the two works to Vancouver. North America, be says, has become too technology orientated and the human being has been ignored.

The classic position of the artist.

Why was his work refused? Two reasons, really, he claims. Nudity plus the fact the Vancouver park board didn't want to make a decision regarding the artistic merits of each.

The board takes the position that it will remove anything from public land that hasn't been granted permission to be there.

But it's perhaps significant that it has erected a work by another sculptor on a rock near the Empress of Japan figurehead off Stanley Park since the latest Juchum episode.

A fine work.

Fully clothed in a wet-suit.

"It's unfortunate that a child's first experience with the nude is generally through pornography, not as art," says Juchum. "Because the nude body in the prime of life is a thing of beauty. It's sad that people, some people, can't see this."

Some can. Those who buy his works as well as others. Strangely, though, it's always the nude female that sells, not the nude male. His back yard is lined with completed figures not yet sold, standing, sitting, kneeling, prone. There are works in his living room, kitchen and on the back porch.

One female. The rest males.

"I don't understand it. The minute I finish a female work, it sells immediately." He snaps his fingers to illustrate the point. "But people don't buy the males. Over the generations, the female torso has become revered. I don't see why we can't accept both."

Juchum refuses to debate with the park board the merits of his work, saying he doesn't want to force it on them. However, he says the beaches would look better with works by himself and other artists replacing "that junk," logs and other material washed ashore and left to rot.

Art aside, he makes a pretty good wine.

Three glasses into the interview, there are still 120 bottles of the stuff down his basement. My colleague, the photographer, is doing well.

Laughter seems to come easy to the Romanian. He chuckles at his problems with the park board as easily as he laughs when telling the story of almost being hit while at the beach.

"I don't like using professional models " he says. "Models have nice bodies, but I like working with character, feeling and expression. Few professional models have this at least they don't exhibit it. So I ask people on the street if they'd like to pose for me, people with expressive faces. In Europe, this isn't an unusual thing to do."

No, but here, that's not the way things are done, it seems.

The man on the beach tried hitting him when Juchum asked. Other people have had other reactions. The mind wanders with the possibilities.

Style? Juchum would be a realist if he submitted himself to labels, to categorization. His work reflects that. The modern era is over and done, he claims. Finished because people expect sculpture to be "real honest and reflect the world as it can be seen and touched." His work is a testament to that outlook although a couple of pieces are impressionistic.

"And my landlord is very understanding," he says, from among the pieces and bits of clay and cement scattered about the basement.

Barrels of wine. Look at it all.

"Sculpting can be a very dirty business and not everyone can appreciate the mess it leaves behind."

His landlord is from Portugal and Europeans understand these things better.

Things have changed in Canada, according to Juchum. Changed for the better. He claims the arts were closeted when he first came here. Now, however, the artist has the opportunity to sell and to get financial help if he needs it.

Juchum, it seems, is entirely self-sufficient. No grants or subsidies, he earns his living through his work with the government, spending the bulk of his earnings on material for his art.

For the most part, he charges only a little above the materials used for any one work.

"I don't sculpt for a living, rather for the art of it," he says.

Coming from anyone else, the statement would probably have sounded more than a bit affected. Art for the love of it. Something out of a bad movie starring Charleton Heston.

But not so with Juchum. He says it with a slight smile and in a matter-of-fact way that makes you feel guilty for having thought there could have been any other reason. Not at all embarrassing. Just a statement of fact.

And you believe him.

The park board isn't the only administrative body Juchum has had difficulty with. At one time he had tried giving, again free of charge, a statue to Simon Fraser University. After writing several letters without reply, he gave up.

The prone figure with outstretched arm is in his backyard.

He calls it "Protest."[The statue was later titled "Why"]

Therein, he claims, lies his problem.

"I should never have called it Protest. I wanted to give them the statue at a time when they were having problems on their campus, so perhaps I can understand why they didn't want it."

One day, perhaps, Juchum will have his free offerings accepted and we'll be able to see and touch one of his works as we walk along the Stanley Park beaches. He's in no hurry, being a patient man. After all, he waited nine years for a passport to leave Romania for Germany.

So what's only one year of rejection?