Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jeffery Mcnary's question

Jeffery Mcnary is a writer who found me on facebook and took an interest in my work. He does freelance write for art magazines among other things. Here is a link to his blog, check it out!

He asked me to answer this question: 

"you operate in a genre requiring, not only passion, but strength, fire/heat and tools many visual artists have no relationship with. what brought you to this medium and how do you wrestle with it?"

My answer:

Simply put, I grew up around steel. My pops owns a pipe and steel company back home and the material made it was into my subconscious. I can remember going to the steel yard after school and searching for bunnies hiding among all the rusty pipe. I remember getting a piece of scrap pipe and telling my dad how I thought it would make a really pretty vase for the wild flowers I picked if it had a bottom. I am a very family oriented person and my way of being part of the family business is using the scrap from Dad's business and transforming it into public art.

As a sculptor, I am attracted to the the strength and mass of steel. If you are sculpting with steel you mean business and have to be dedicated to the material and respect its properties. I love the aesthetic of rust – the beautiful oranges and browns all swirling together to form a protective coating. This protective property humanizes the steel for me and gives it a more of a personality. We all wear our protective coating from time to time don't we? But despite its mass, I find ways to make the steel look light and airy. I want to show that it too can be delicate and sometimes lyrical (remember those bunnies a flowers I talked about). This is sort of the opposite from how people react when that discover I am a steel sculptor, "Well, you weld that yourself?!" I get that a lot. 

The steel does present several challenges for me to work with. First off, I'm not Hercules and have to work "smart" in order to stay safe while I'm schlepping the steel around my studio. My tools enable me to work in a medium that requires a lot of support. My work is directly dependent upon my gantry, my grinder, and my welder I affectionately call Elmer (because it is like my glue for the metal). Steel doesn't allow you to be quite as impulsive as maybe some other mediums do. It makes you think. I really appreciate that. It's a material I will continue to learn about and grow as an artist while I find new ways to manipulate its form.

 I think a lot about energy when I designing a sculpture or just walking down the street. When I am welding, I am focused on the metals joining and becoming stronger together as one structure.  The permanence of my work is something that is attractive to me and also very intimidating. I'm making something at 30 years old that will be around well after I have left this earth and how can I make it something that might help to define me and my culture while still evoking a feelings toward it from someone who I don't know?

A large part of why I make art is to share it with the public and to bring it outside of museums and galleries that can be intimidating. I want my art to be approachable and endearing to the public. What is interesting about this is that I don't really hear back from the public on how they feel about my work. Recently a friend of mine relayed a story about his friends who walk by my sculpture, Position, frequently and how much they enjoy seeing it. This simple piece of feedback from these folks I don't know is so exciting to me. It worked! The sculpture prompted a dialogue that actually made it's way back to me. I love that. And I love being a sculptor!

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