MANN BALANCES TEACHING AND ART
The Auraria sculpture and 3D design department couldn’t operate without its lab tech and part-time professor Phillip Mann. Mann can almost always be found in his office in the Auraria sculpture studio, drifting about like an omniscient sculpture guru.
Mann wears many hats, from working construction, to being an outdoor educator, to, finally, teaching as a professor at both CU Denver and Metro State. Mann oversees the extensive sculpture workshop on campus, while also creating his own sculptural artwork.
“We kind of revere these handmade things, but at the same time we don’t value them in an economic way.”
Part-Time Professor and Sculpture Studio Manager | College of Arts and Media
“I came to art through fabrication and design,” Mann said. “So I started out as a fabricator doing custom fabrication, small-batch manufacturing mostly in wood, and I did that for a number of years. I worked in a couple high-end custom furniture shops in town, and when I went to work for myself years later I got an opportunity to teach in industrial design department at Metro. So that kind of brought me to campus for the first time.”
Not only is Mann an educator, he is also a skilled sculptural artist. He creates work from basic materials that could be found in Auraria’s very own sculpture studio, with an emphasis on the process of making the work and its feigned functionality, Mann creates intriguing and dynamic objects that are difficult to dissect at first glance.
“I have different aspects to my creative work,” Mann said. “The stuff that I have been showing lately has been really inspired by process. I think when I went to graduate school I realized how important the process of making was to me. So I have been kind of reflecting on that and also on the kind of complicated relationship we have with made objects in our own material culture. We kind of revere these handmade things, but at the same time we don’t value them in an economic way.”
Mann’s pieces have a dual nature, they are aesthetically fascinating, yet at the same time have the impending urge to function. One piece, made of wood and metal, is a large circular wooden ball affixed to a piece of metal reminiscent of a blade with an object the resembles a handle. This piece looks like a surrealist’s hand-saw, focusing on the idea of tools and how we use them, or how we don’t.
“I am really reflecting on the tools we use to make our art, and so a lot of my works end up being abstracted tool forms and objects that most people would recognize as some kind of hand tool,” Mann said. “I am also really intrigued by that process of evolution where a tool starts off as one thing and then evolves through centuries of use to be a more efficient tool, and they often become really beautiful objects aesthetically, not because anyone set out to make them beautiful, but just because their relationship to the human body and the way we work and function.”
In the future, Mann seeks to create works that place emphasis on the environment and how art can be made from it. As an artist, educator, and outdoors man, all of these components of Phillip Mann seamlessly come together within in his artwork.
Above: Philip Mann works in the sculpture studio as well as being an instructor.
photo: Sarai Nissan • CU Denver Sentry