“The more you’re in nature, the more you see. Every time I drive this road or walk the same path, I see something different.” Paul Fields quoted in the June 15, 1983 edition of the Bullitt Weekly.
Paul Fields was the first unofficial Bernheim Artist in Residence. In 1980, three local sculptors were approached to submit design proposals for a sculpture of significance to be placed along the entrance to the Sun and Shade trail. Fields’ submission, a form sculpted from native limestone that spirals in the same fashion as one of nature’s own shapes was selected and ‘Snail’* became the first contemporary art to be placed at Bernheim.
And significant it was! The original 22-ton block of limestone was bought from the Indiana Limestone Company in Bedford, Indiana and brought to Bernheim in a dump truck. Because of the size and scope of the project, Fields felt the need to live in close proximity during the creation of the work and the concept of creating while in residence was born when Fields moved into an unoccupied house on Bernheim property. The sculpture took nearly two years to complete and brought Fields closer to nature in the process.
Fields is quoted in the December 6, 1982 edition of The Louisville Times, as saying: “The spot where it’s going is so beautiful. I’m using nature to make my piece look better. You can’t improve upon nature, especially Bernheim Forest. It was a challenge to put something in Bernheim that worked.”
Upon completion of ‘Snail’*, several members of the board felt it was time to honor Isaac W. Bernheim’s wishes of art truly having a place in nature. After some thoughtful consideration as to what that would look like and how it would operate, Bernheim’s Artist in Residence program was born.
In the years that followed, Paul not only became a renowned Louisville sculptor, but was also the mentor and teacher for a whole generation of artists. In 2003, Fields and his sister donated the ‘Blossom’* sculpture that now stands along Lake Nevin Loop. This piece is also made from native limestone and the base of “Blossom”* was obtained from the grounds at Bernheim. This was the last piece Fields completed before he passed away after complications from surgery at the age of 64. ‘Blossom’* was formally dedicated at the preview opening with family, friends, and admirers in attendance. His influence on artists, the arts community, and the Artist in Residence program will forever be evident in his work at Bernheim. Spanning over thirty years, Fields’ work can be viewed regionally, in such places as the Louisville Zoo, Kentucky School for the Blind, Cave Hill Cemetery and Indiana University Southeast.
*Instead of attributing descriptive names to individual artworks, Paul Fields never titled his sculptures. Over the years Bernheim has fondly adopted the names of “Snail” and “Blossom” as a means of identifying the works both for operational as well as directional purposes for visitors.
2020 marks the 40th anniversary of Bernheim’s Artist in Residence program. Established in 1980, this internationally renowned program annually awards artists the opportunity to live and create site-specific work inspired by their total immersion experience at Bernheim. Throughout 2020, we are celebrating the contributions of the program’s past that has allowed our visitors to experience nature in a new way while enhancing awareness of Bernheim’s mission of connecting people to nature.