By Kirsten A. Conover, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
Sculptor Evan Lewis was in his studio last year when he got an intriguing phone call: A scout who finds artwork for movies was in search of some kinetic wind sculpture.
The film, the movie rep explained, would be about scientists who chase tornadoes.
So, the Chicago artist thought, "Why not?"
He corresponded with Warner Bros. executives, sending them photos and videos of his large, wind-powered sculptures that move and sometimes tingle with the wind. Before long, he found himself working furiously to meet a deadline for works the designers wanted.
One year later, Lewis is getting recognition in a way he could have never predicted. It is perhaps best described in the words of a man who identified Lewis's work at a recent art show in Chattanooga, Tenn.: "Hey, you're the 'Twister' guy!"
" 'Twister' guy" may not exactly be the title Lewis hoped for after more than 10 years as a kinetic sculptor, but for now, the recognition is a welcome windfall.
Lewis's sculptures are featured prominently in the blockbuster movie starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as Jo and Bill Harding. When we meet Jo's Aunt Meg we learn that not only does she make great steak and eggs, but she also creates curious kinetic sculptures.
Lewis says he's pleased when people identify his work by "Twister." "It's very flattering to me. It means I have a style that's recognizable," he said in a phone interview.
To be sure, Lewis is not the first or the only artist to have artworks featured prominently in a motion picture. Painter Paul Deo, for one, is known for having works in "Malcolm X" and "Waiting to Exhale."
But what makes Lewis's situation somewhat unusual is that the designers needed a body of work, not just one or two pieces.
As the artist tells the story, his sculptures were just "under consideration" when director Jan de Bont just happened to be strolling by a viewing room where one of Lewis's videos was playing. "That clinched it," Lewis was told. De Bont chose him, despite hearsay that Steven Spielberg reportedly had someone else in mind.
The next task was deciding what to feature in the movie. The designers asked Lewis for some 20 works, ranging from large-scale sculptures to interior pieces, such as lamps and a mirror.
A few sculptures they asked for were older works that Lewis had either sold or had already scrapped, so he had to start again. "Basically they wanted me to rebuild what no longer existed," Lewis says. One was "V Floater," a large piece measuring eight feet high and 25 feet long made from steel and corrugated, galvanized sheet metal. As rumor has it, that went home with Jan de Bont.
One finished piece had to be rented from the owner in Buffalo, N. …