Dees, artist of Sanford brick sculpture, dies

Mar. 26, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

The artwork at the entrance of the Sanford Municipal Center is so subtle, it's easy to miss.

Yet the large, brick sculpture of the City of Sanford seal represents the city's history and culture to those who visit city council's chamber. Patricia Turlington Dees, creator of the sculpture and a state renowned brick sculptor, died last week in Goldsboro.

Dees's artwork in city hall is extraordinary, said Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive, and has served as a welcome to the building's visitors.

"Any time we hear about an artist who died, it is sad, but in particular when they have an artistic tie with Sanford," she said. "I was not here at the time the sculpture was commissioned, but it has certainly stood the test of time and it is beautifully executed."

Robert Brickhouse, who served on the city committee to select an artist for the artwork, said the project took several months until completion and that Dees was a talented artist.

"We went to Goldsboro to see her artwork in the local schools, and there were fairy tales and other things children would be studying in brick on the walls," Brickhouse said. "I remember a dinosaur carved into the walls. It was really neat."

The bricks used for the sculpture were all locally made, he said, and Dees was an ideal artist for the work, done in the bas-relief sculpture technique. The city's seal is slightly raised out of the wall, giving the bricks a 3-D aspect.

"We knew she was a talented lady when you saw what she was able to do," he said.

The use of bricks and clay made in Lee County was one of the more interesting aspects of the artwork, Olive said.

"That was always part of the intrigue," she said.

Dees was commissioned for her brick work in many private and public locations throughout North Carolina, New York, Florida and Wisconsin, and she was the sole North Carolina member of the National Association of Women Artists, according to her obituary from Seymour Funeral Home of Goldsboro. She was a visiting artist for several colleges across the nation and served as an artist-in-residence at the Edward Laredo Institute of Music and the Humanities at Cochabama, Bolivia. A private funeral ceremony will be held at a later date in Oriental, N.C.