I’m dressed in sneakers, jeans and a fleece, ready for a sprint through downtown Atlanta with Gregor Turk for an overview of public art monuments tucked in and around the skyscrapers and government buildings. At one point we duck into the local police station to view the obscure Zero Mile Post, marking the center of the city, while Turk recites the political and geographical history of the area with ease. Then it’s back to the studio for tea and discussion of his recent projects.
A native of Atlanta who knows the city intimately, Turk is one of the most widely traveled artists in town. After a two-year Peace Corps stint in Africa, this inveterate bicyclist rode along much of the U.S.-Canadian border collecting material for his ambitious 49th Parallel Project. From outdoor billboard projects to intimate ceramic maps (Urban Tablets) and street rubbings of historical markers, the land and its social and topographical history defines Turk’s artistic practice. He has received public art commissions from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and he has advised the airport art committee in locating art sites in its new terminal. He was recently awarded a residency in South Africa to work with master printers at the prestigious Caversham Press.
Luckily for Atlanta, he feels a strong sense of community and gives much of his time to teaching and advocating for public art here. A member of Mayor Franklin’s Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) and the Metropolitan Public Art Coalition (MPAC), Turk serves on the boards of several other art institutions in town. One is as likely to find the artist in a dinner jacket at a gallery opening as running through industrial areas with a backpack carrying tools for making urban sign rubbings. When he hosts an open studio – the next is May 5 – it seems the art, architecture and design communities all convene in his renovated bungalow off Huff Road, now positioned at the crossroads of in-town development and the Beltline, along the city’s Westside.
At the moment, Turk is preparing for several forthcoming projects. He will make works for a group show titled ‘Space’ stall several works in the rooms of the historic farmhouse that reflect the site and its development over time. Turk refers to himself as a ‘responder,’ an artist who is attracted to the environment and landscape as a draftsman is drawn to the blank sheet of paper. Using maps and signage as tools to interpret his surroundings, Turk will create mixed media environments that will pull his audiences towards a sensitivity and understanding of the land, specifically this land, in 2007.
Open Studio (with other Westside studio artists): Saturday, May 5, noon to 5; 1334 English Street, Atlanta, GA 30318. gregorturk.com.