Lewis (Lew) Alquist, artist and professor in the Herberger College School of Art’s sculpture department, passed away Feb. 24. He was 58. Alquist taught at ASU for 20 years and was admired by both students and peers for his intellect and humor, dedication to teaching and mentoring, and the unique conceptual artwork he created.
“Lew always said that ‘not everything is art, but everything is art supplies,’ recollects Jim White, who worked alongside Alquist in the sculpture department for 20 years. “He used everything to construct his art. Nothing was off limits.”
In addition to teaching sculpture and filmmaking, Alquist constantly created new work and public art projects. His most recent work, Road Hog Fiesta, is on exhibit in the faculty art show at the ASU Art Museum through April 30. Public artworks created by Alquist include Mesquite Branch and Whorlpath for the Mesquite Public Library in Paradise Valley, and Citizen Eyes, a large video projection on the Wells Fargo building in downtown Phoenix during last year’s Art Detour event.
“Lew was not only a terrific teacher, he was a gifted public artist who, through example, inspired a generation of students to go into the field of public art,” said ASU Public Art Director Dianne Cripe. “He will be missed.”
Alquist was born in Glen Cove, New York in 1946. He received a BFA degree in 1968 from Florida Atlantic University and an MFA in 1972 from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Before joining the ASU faculty, he taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and Edinboro State University in Western Pennsylvania.
During his 30-year career, Alquist exhibited his work nationally and was an artist-in-residence at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1986. He received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and several grants from ASU and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, among others.
Of his art, Alquist has been quoted as saying “I am interested in overlaps and parallels, coincidence and allusion, fortuitous and gratuitous juxtaposition. I create art that uses kinetic energy as a catalyzing force to make the invisible more visible.”
Most of his sculptures involved electro-mechanical movement but were not "high-tech."
Byron Lahey, a current MFA sculpture student said Alquist was an “extraordinary teacher” who “always saw the poetry in the ordinary.”
“His conceptual strengths were matched by his rich wealth of technical knowledge,” said Lahey. “He taught classes that opened up possibilities for artwork that I continue to explore.”
Shortly before he died, Alquist married Jane Pleak, an art professor in Ceramics at Georgia Southern University who set up a scholarship fund in his name at the university. Donations can be sent to the Lew Alquist Art Scholarship, c/o Georgia Southern Foundation, P.O. Box 8053, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA 30460. To send condolences, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is from the ASU newspaper. Read the article with photo on page 8 of this .pdf document here