Gathering of Animals, 1997-98
Gift of Ann & Monroe Carell, Jr. and the 1996 Swan Ball Patrons
Though Frank Fleming became known for his fantastical sculptural groups of figures that combined elements from the natural world with mystical, imaginative renderings of human beings, the Gathering of Animals is more straightforwardly naturalistic. Comprised of a turtle, frog, and two hares placed directly on the ground and a hawk, above in a nearby tree, the work was installed on The Carell Trail specifically with children in mind. The animals face one another, as though caught in conversation, but space is left for viewers of all ages to join their circle and interact with them in their woodland environment.
The natural landscape of the Southeastern United States has always been central to Fleming’s sculpture. Born on a cotton and corn farm in Bear Creek, Alabama, and working out of his studio in Birmingham from 1973 until his death, Fleming frequently drew inspiration from the flora and fauna of Alabama, dealing with the imagery of his surroundings or as he stated, “what I grew up with and what I know.” Suffering from a speech impediment that caused him to stop speaking in public during his childhood, Fleming learned how to work with clay while undergoing intensive speech therapy as a student at Florence State College (now the University of North Alabama). He went on to earn an MA and MFA in ceramics from the University of Alabama in the 1970s and continued to work in the medium throughout his career, adopting bronze as a material in his work during the early 1980s.