Jeff Boshart: Man of Steel

Most people come to Hilton Head Island to relax. Jeff Boshart isn't like most people. Instead of playing a round of golf or playing in the sand, the seasoned sculptor and educator drove 17 hours from Charleston, Illinois, to play with 2,000 pounds of steel on a particularly warm October afternoon.

"It’s just ignorance, I guess," Boshart laughed, firing up his generator during the hottest part of the day.

With the help of two assistants and several local high school student volunteers, Boshart pieced together a massive steel art exhibit measuring more than 20 feet long, 20 feet wide and 20 feet high in just two days.

He calls it Tally. It is one of 19 sculptures on display through Dec. 31 for the 2015 Public Art Exhibition, on the grounds of the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. 

The sculpture is the latest in Boshart’s THEB series, which stands for Transparent Hollow Empty Boxes. Tally's hollow steel beams jut out of the ground at Honey Horn.  

The enormous sculpture rests on three geometric corners. Each corner that touches the ground expands upwards into a geometric rectangular shape. The metal bars trace the edges of three massive boxes, creating a hollow space in the center of each box. The large artwork presents observers with two options.

"You can either look at the sculpture, which will rust to an orange, or you can look straight through it to see the environment, and totally ignore the sculpture," Boshart said.

His THEB series was inspired by sculptor and painter David Smith, best known for creating large steel abstract geometric sculptures in the 1950s and ’60s.

"He invented a sculpture process called Cubi," Boshart said. "He took stainless steel, which was rare at the time, and learned how to weld it into cubes. The cubes reflected the environment around them — the clouds, sky, grass. He made them all over the country."

Tragically, Smith died in a 1965 automobile accident at the age of 59.

"He died way too young," Boshart said. "I asked my students (at Eastern Illinois University), 'If he had lived, what would have been his next series?' " Boshart said. "I think he would have made hollow boxes."

Boshart has made 11 such sculptures around the country. He purchased the steel for Tally from a company in Hardeeville and had it delivered to Honey Horn. He and his assistants traveled with all the tools to construct it.

"With the size and weight of this, it doesn't make sense to transport it," Boshart said. "It wouldn't fit under an overpass. Building it onsite works to my advantage, plus it allows me to involve local students and volunteers. With a little imagination and inventiveness, you can make things much bigger than yourself without a whole lot of trouble."