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blacksmithing

This past semester, I participated in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics ) education project at Morgantown’s North Elementary School. Sponsored by a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, this project had three primary components, one of which was to create a garden environment for attracting regional birds. My WVU School of Art and Design colleague Joseph Lupo helped the North students use their bird research to create mini comics, while my sculpture students and I focused on designing and building a birdhouse structure.

To begin the birdhouse component of this project, my sculpture students were tasked with creating steel butterflies, flowers, snails, and leaves, which tied into our classroom study of forging, welding, and other metal fabrication techniques. Meanwhile, 4th grade students from North were utilizing their bird research, drawing these creatures onto steel panels with chalk. I took these panels back to our studio and cut them out with a plasma torch, and then these bird panels and my sculpture students’ flora and fauna were cleaned up and painted in multiple bright colors.

I set wooden posts in concrete and built the final birdhouse structure with my friend Aaron Lutz, a WVU forestry program student working at North this year with the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The completed piece contains approximately nine birdhouses, 33 steel bird panels, 33 steel items created by my sculpture students, and a stainless steel nameplate. This project gave my students and I the opportunity to collaborate with students, teachers, and administrators at North in a truly unique manner, and out of the things I did in this amazingly busy school year, this was probably the most enjoyable project to take on.

 

 

After an intense summer filled with numerous teaching obligations & round-the-clock art-making, I am happy to announce the opening of my solo exhibition Match Cut in the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center’s Laura Mesaros Gallery. On view from September 1-October 2, this show explores our collective need for classification and organization, especially as the desires and limitations of our organic bodies conflict with this quest for order. I use various fabrication techniques and meticulous craftsmanship to explore these conceptual interests, manipulating iconic imagery & familiar objects from our educational, governmental, and scientific institutions in order to draw attention to the impermanent & transitory nature of cultural authority.

This exhibition takes its title, Match Cut, from a film editing technique where seamless transitions between scenes help draw together the visual, metaphorical connections between objects and actions. I drew inspiration from this cinematic device, creating a series of cast & forged metal sculptures, mixed media panel works, and manipulated found object pieces that are cozily familiar yet imbued with surreal, dreamlike qualities. I really like the way this new body of work fits together, and I look forward to creating more artwork in the same vein.

Here are some in progress images of two new forged steel text pieces. These works draw upon my knowledge of forging techniques to explore slang terminology, folk etymologies, and other forms of truncated language.

These sculptures began as elements of the steel matrix I used to make a series of branded woodblock prints and grew into two distinct forged steel panels. Now that these pieces are roughed out, I am going to spend time cleaning them up and figuring out how they are going to be displayed.

From June 8-10, I conducted live blacksmithing demonstrations as part of the Arts Alive on the River Festival at Hazel Ruby McQuain Park in Morgantown, WV. The festival featured a terrific lineup of visual and performing artists, top-notch musical acts, and fine local food and beverages. The weather was beautiful, the attendees were enthusiastic, and Arts Alive proved to be a resounding success. I had an awesome time demonstrating and I look forward to doing this again.

After a long hiatus from printmaking, I was really missing this medium, so I decided to make prints that brought together my knowledge of forging techniques with my interests in slang terminology, folk etymologies, and other forms of truncated language.

The Branded Woodblock Prints began by forging, twisting, and manipulating steel round stock to create lines of text. Then the steel text was heated in a forge and branded into a wooden plate. Next, the plate was cleaned with a wire brush to remove ash residue. Finally, these works were inked up and printed by hand.

This work spawned many new ideas I want to explore further, so I am excited to see where this series takes me. Big thanks to my friend and colleague Joseph Lupo, coordinator of the printmaking program at West Virginia University, for his assistance in creating this work.

Here are some images of my newest sculpture, titled From hoof to tray. I’m working on grinding, filing, and sanding all the components so I can take it through the paint stage. This sculpture was particularly difficult to finish because it was fabricated in fits and starts, with many new elements added along the way. However, as I near the finish line, I couldn’t be happier with the results, and I am certain this piece will be a great capstone to my Color Coded series.