Alex Mendez, an artist from Decatur, finished installing his new piece, "Love," on the southeast corner of the intersection at West Maumee and Elizabeth streets in downtown Angola. Photo by Hallee Lepley
Alex Mendez, an artist from Decatur, finished installing his new piece, "Love," on the southeast corner of the intersection at West Maumee and Elizabeth streets in downtown Angola. Photo by Hallee Lepley
ANGOLA — Sculptures Angola has expanded once more with the addition of three new statues just off of downtown Angola’s Public Square at the intersection of West Maumee and Elizabeth streets.

“Trying My Best,” by Emily Bennett of Terre Haute, is stationed on the southwest corner and is a nostalgic piece of many colorful houses.

Elton Bishop, a resident from the Auburn area, returned to Angola with a rendition of his previous sculpture, “Signe,” which previously stood on the southeast corner of the intersection. The new piece, titled “Signetron,” stands on the northwest corner and features a more geometric take on his original inspiration.

Now sitting in the southeast corner in place of “Signe” is a piece by Decatur artist Alex Mendez, titled “Love.” It is one part of a longer sculpture series inspired by hand signs.

Plaques made by the Angola Sports Center will adorn each statue to explain its name and inspiration.

For Bennett, her whimsical piece of stacked houses, “Trying My Best,” is a tribute to her past and how far she has gone to make it to today.

“This is every house that I lived in growing up and the things that happened there and how now I am this whole piece,” Bennett said. “I’m trying to hold it all together kind of thing. You know, try to see the cheerful, colorful side of life but still kind of harnessing the energy of the past.”

Bennett is the director of education at the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, a historical location that opened in 1942, and runs her own business aside from creating sculptures.

While she had never been to Angola before, she enjoyed the downtown and hoped that her artwork would provide another reason for people to smile.

“Hopefully when people see it they just feel, I don’t know, like a kid. Excited,” Bennett said. “Like, oh my gosh, it’s a stack of tiny houses.”

Mendez’s piece follows in Bennett’s colorful footsteps by featuring a bright red finish that will catch the eye of cars and passersby alike.

The sculpture, “Love,” is shaped like the hand sign for “I love you” and continued Mendez’s series of hand-based pieces.

“This is the fourth hand sign that’s been installed,” Mendez said. “I did ‘Peace.’ This is my sign of ‘Love.’ I did one that was the ‘Live Long and Prosper,’ and I also have a ‘Rock On.’”

One of Mendez’s previous pieces, titled “Every Piece Has a Place,” currently sits in the southwest quadrant of Public Square. It is based on the game Tetris and also features the bright colors that Mendez frequently enjoys using in his art.

“I had almost an existential crisis a couple years ago because I realized I wasn’t a tortured artist. I was always led to believe that the tortured artist makes the best artwork because they have something to say, or at least that’s what you’re always told in art books,” Mendez said. “Then somebody was just like, you don’t have to be tortured to make good art — just make art that’s you. And I was like, well, I’m a cartoon character basically in real life, so that’s where I came up with a lot of the bright colors.”

While Bishop’s new piece, “Signetron,” may not be as colorful as the other two, it is just as thought-provoking due to its intricate shape and unique design.

“My goal was to create something organic,” Bishop said, “but because I was starting at basically the flower and going back to the root, I had to basically grow the plant in reverse.”

The knot shape of “Signetron” is the same design that Bishop used for his previous piece, “Signe.”

Bishop is a structural engineer, and the inspiration of this specific knot design came to him one cold winter night as he was working on a project.

“I’m supposed to be drafting, so I’d get these long rolls of blueprints with a rubber band around them and just roll the thing off,” Bishop said. “I kid you not, that rubber band flew up, hit the ceiling and came right back down in front of me on my desk in that shape. I saw it immediately, so I sketched it. It took me several years to be able to make that knot out of a continuous loop. It’s not very easy, but it turns out it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon.”

These three new installations, along with the four placed around Public Square in June, mark the third year for Sculptures Angola, an initiative of the Angola Mayor's Arts Council that received two, 2021 sponsorships from the Steuben County Community Foundation’s Rich and Laura Clifton Fund, the Steuben County Tourism Bureau and the Angola Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

The project is based on data collected through the efforts of the Angola Hometown Collaboration Initiative, the work of the Mayor’s Arts Council and the city of Angola’s Downtown Services under the Office of the Mayor.

Each artist was paid $1,000 this year for installing their work.

The sculptures will have a price tag on their plaques and can be purchased directly from the artist.
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