Sculptor unveils, discusses his outdoor installation at the Westerly Train Station

 Sculptor unveils, discusses his outdoor installation at the Westerly Train Station

reporter photo

WESTERLY — Sculptor R. Douglass Rice stood in front of the Westerly Train Station Wednesday morning, surrounded by one of his creations —  a series of six slender red structures. The eye-catching sculpture is the newest addition to the downtown Westerly landscape.

“I call it Evolution,” said Rice, who installed his six-part sculpture to help highlight the October show at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly, which opened Friday night in the train station. “It is evolving.”

Each of the pieces in “Evolution 1-6,” contains the exact shape of its succeeding piece, he said; each separate sculpture evolves from its previous companion.

“When assembled together they resemble a creature arising from the primordial ooze,” he said with a smile.

Rice, who became a member of the artists’ cooperative about six months ago, said he joined as an oil painter, not as a sculptor, although he began sculpting early on. He took his first sculpture class as a prep school student at Phillips Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire, then went on to study sculpture at Stanford with Richard Randall. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in human biology in 1974.

Friendly and talkative, Rice, who lives in Stonington, was dressed casually in a flannel shirt and blue jeans on the sunny, early October morning. The bright red of the forms contrasted cheerfully with the green grass and the muted colors of the stuccoed, hacienda-style train station.

“I wanted to help identify the gallery and to help bring people in, ” said Rice. “I am so very grateful to the gallery.”

Rice,  “along with many, many others,” he noted, helped with cleaning and sprucing up the train station before the gallergy opened there in the summer. He said he has enjoyed meeting and spending time with the artists at the cooperative gallery. 

“There are such wonderful people here,” he said.

A longtime artist who spent a career “building high-end homes for rich people,” in New York City and environs, Rice moved permamently to the region in 2016, with his wife, Cynthia Elliott, who led Symphony Space, the well-known cultural center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

“It’s heaven here,” said Rice with a smile. “Absolute heaven.”

As he began making squiggles on a sheet of white paper to demonstrate a mini version of his process for making the pieces, Rice explained that the forms are made of powder-coated aluminum. First, he said, he experimented with construction paper, then plywood.

“I had to figure out how not let them fall down,” he said with a chuckle.

This is not the first time the sculpture has been on display in Westerly. In 2016, “Evolution” stood outside the Avondale Arts Center and before that at Sculpture for Leonia in Leonia, N.J., a noted art colony.

Currently he has a bright yellow sculpture called “Canary” on exhibit at  Williams Memorial Park in New London, and another orangey-yellow creation called “Random Vowels” on Exhibit in Guilford, Conn.

He is also exhibting, through the end of end of October, with artists Sky Hoyt and Marija Pavlovich McCarthy at the La Grua Center in a show called “Exploration of Art Elements, Aquatic Nature, Expressive Freedom.”

When he lived in New York, Rice maintained a studio in Tribeca and exhibited in a number of galleries. He had two shows at the National Arts Club, and following his second show in 2008, was invited to become a member. He continues to serve on the club’s Round Table committee.

Rice was a board member of the Bronx Museum of the Arts for 10 years, served as its chair from 2009 until 2013 and is currently chair emeritus of the museum. He is an elected artist at the Mystic Museum of Art and a member of the Lyme Arts Association and the Bristol Art museum.

He and his wife have two children, Jackson Rice and Sasha Elliot. Once a week he volunteers at the New London Community Meal Center, a soup kitchen on the outskirts of the city.

“They let me cook,” said Rice with a laugh. “Life is good.”

“Doug’s Evolution sculpture adds life to the lawn in front of the train station,” said Lynn Anderson of Noank, a longtime member of the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly. “The bright red shapes contrast beautifully with the green grass and will be stunning against a white carpet of snow.”


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