I was 20 years old in 1986 when I walked into Dan Ostermiller’s studio and asked for a job. Up to then, I’d been helping my Dad build houses. I was young and naive and had no idea what it meant to be a professional artist, let alone understanding the much more specialized realm of the sculptor. I ground bronze and learned to weld it; we painted rubber and slung plaster to make molds; I learned pointing up and roughing in from maquette to monument. I put all this newfound knowledge to work, sculpting my own pieces and casting them in bronze.
Somehow, the artist in me that had previously enjoyed drawing and painting fell in love with form and space and shadow, and I spent every free penny I made turning my ideas into cast metal. Casting bronze is expensive, even with the discounts the foundries gave us “rats,” the green-tinged, bleary-eyed artisans who did the dirty work on the shop floor. I discovered Brancusi and stone carving, doubly excited by the cheap, plentiful medium and the thrill of turning an ugly rock into a work of art. Somewhere around this point in the timeline, Mr. Ostermiller and I had a falling out (I pissed him off) and I found myself once again walking into a sculptor’s studio to ask for a job. Kent Ullberg wasn’t just the second sculptor I worked for, he became like a second father to me. The Swede opened my eyes to a more European view of the world and of art. He also entrusted me to manage his production at the foundry, as well as handling the enlargement of some of his most impressively-scaled works.
There are a many more details and people and crazy happenings to recount, but that gets too far afield from my point. The stone carving and the metal grinding and the construction work, not to mention a detour to make a few thousand Chipotle chairs for my friend Bruce, took a serious toll on my physical health. Couple that with the inevitable diminishing of aging eyesight and a restlessness to move away from committee-driven public art, and you have the perfect recipe for a personal reinvention. And so it is with a bittersweet heart that I formally end my career as a sculptor, moving forward with excitement and trepidation into a future of greater creative freedom and less physical pain. Stay tuned to see what happens on the next episode!
(I’m cross-posting this to my new website, but the version over there has PICTURES! CLICK HERE)
Since I’ve been sans shop/studio and focusing on finishing up our house remodeling, I’ve also felt the need to create some ART. Decided to make use of my iPad Pro once again to produce some pieces of graphic design/2d art. One thing I really appreciate about the iPad is the flexibility it gives for interaction and body position; sitting at a traditional desktop and using the mouse causes me debilitating pain after just a couple hours at this point in my life (old). It’s weird, since I can spend 6 to 8 hours at the business end of a 4 inch grinder with fewer downsides. Dunno, maybe those two items are somehow mysteriously linked?!?!?
Anyway, here are some things I’ve been making:
Anywhere But Here
Out to HERE In to THERE
Hold It Together
The process is simple, but complex, in that it involves producing gobs of iterations for each image (sometimes more than 20), then tweaking, adding filters and masks, then stacking them to create blends. The packed-circles effect is accomplished with an app called Percolator, which lends a unique geometric flair to each piece. It’s a workflow that I find both thrilling and relaxing, as it includes elements of surprise and whimsy coupled with ruthless decision making. I’ll often look up at the time and realize 3 or 4 hours have flowed past in blissful concentration. I do struggle a bit with finding value in the work, but I’ve been working on that:
“The amount of labor involved in the creation of a work of art has absolutely no bearing on its aesthetic value.”
This is in response to my self-doubt as to the validity of my digital artwork. I’m actually struggling with the concept of aesthetic value vis-a-vis the method of said work’s creation. Somehow, the feeling that my sculptural work has greater value than my digital work is blocking me. It recalls the days when I was carving, and the contrast in material costs to bronze casting was having undue impact on my pricing. Neither the cost of the raw materials nor the labor involved should influence the apprehension of the value of a work of art. The cost of the canvas and paint to Van Gogh mean nothing to the collector who spends hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire the painting. A computer or other digital device is no different than a paint brush, or chisel, or welder, or table saw: it is a (hopefully skillful) means to an end, and that end is capital-A “Art.”
(Thinking about Art in terms of product and price is another mental sticking point for me, but that’s a subject for another day.)
Ran down to Little Rock on Sunday/Monday with Interwoven in tow. Stayed with new friends Mike and Marty, then got up Tuesday morning and bolted it down to the base. As usual, the City Parks crew were a huge help, and have become some of the best art handlers/installers in the country. I love the bridge as a backdrop: the piece was at least partially inspired by the multiple bridges across the Arkansas river, and their riveted, industrial aura.