Q&A: Stockertown Artist Emil Lukas Discusses his ‘Optic Wall’

By Amber Galdamez, Communications Coordinator

A respected artist and sculptor, Emil Lukas has exhibited his work worldwide, from New York to Florida and Italy to Germany. A recent winner of the Linny Award for artistic excellence in the visual arts, Lukas has been making a positive social impact on communities near and far with his unique and striking art pieces. At SteelStacks, his “Optic Wall” – the first piece showcased at the campus’ rotating sculpture space – offers spectators a fresh perspective on their surroundings through its incredible multi-dimensional views.

What was your inspiration behind “Optic Wall”?
“Optic Wall” and the other lens sculptures have multiple inspirations. Some of the research that started these sculptures involved a rethinking of drawing, with one-point perspective with sight lines through tubes.  Another inspiration was the accumulation of small spacers to form curvature.

What made you choose this piece to test with the public and why ArtsQuest?
The relationship with ArtsQuest started with a studio visit from ArtsQuest founder Jeff Parks a few years back.  At that time, lens sculptures were being developed with paper, cardboard and aluminum in the studio. After showing similar indoor works in New York and Venice, it became an interesting idea to install one outside on the SteelStacks campus.

Do you feel like there is a connection between your sculpture and SteelStacks?
For sure! Personally, I grew up with the steel industry in Braddock, PA. I’ve always had a connection to blast furnaces, open hearths and basic oxygen plant of the USS Edgar Thomson works in Pittsburgh; it’s part of my fabric. More importantly, I would hope that the viewers connect the sculpture to the SteelStacks site with their own perspective. I’d like to think of it as a social exercise that utilizes the sculpture as a gigantic lens where people moving through the space observe one another and their surroundings.

What’s your advice to young or new artists about getting their artwork out into the public eye?
My advice to young artists is to make the work that totally fascinates them, with complete disregard for showing, selling or any type of commercial success.  While that is the focus, they should look at the very best art that the world has to offer.  It’s also crucial to be surrounded by a group of peers with the same focus. When they have made something truly outstanding, there will be a small audience there to champion it…and that’s the start you need.