Many of you saw Jeff’s picture of the new GIANT sculpture on Facebook. It’s not often he works on a scale that large, so I figured I’d take advantage of the situation to give you some behind-the-scenes information on the creation of such an exciting piece!
As with most of his sculptures, Jeff starts the creative process by sketching the design of the framework and building it according to his notes. While building the framework, he has only a basic idea of what the sculpture will look like when all is said and done. It’s the addition of found metal, the track, and the lift system that truly finishes a sculpture, and he’s never exactly sure what will go where until he’s in the midst of creating it. One particular difficulty Jeff has struggled with while creating this sculptures is identifying pieces of found metal that are both large enough and in good enough shape to be incorporated into the finished design. Interestingly, this is the first sculpture of this size to feature found metal. Jeff’s sculptures used to feature powder coated pieces of metal, a style he has moved away from in recent years. He found the brightness and flatness of the powder coated colors could make a piece appear “too sterile”, a look he is no longer as fond of. He now favors the depth and character that found metal lends to his creations. For more background information on Jeff’s choice to use found metals, check out Rust is the New Black.
For this newest piece, Jeff found an old fuel barrel that was in pretty good shape and had a nice color to it. It was about 5 feet in diameter and barely fit in the back of his truck. He stuck it in there anyway and hoped for an empty road (he was rewarded with an uneventful trip home this time, though he has his horror stories). For old barrels like this one, he tends to wait a while to use them to ensure that any remaining fuel fumes have time to evaporate away. In this case, he was worried there might still be lingering fumes. He dissected it incredibly carefully, using a pneumatic chisel to avoid sparks and standing as far away from it as he could. He straightened the curved edges of the barrel himself, as always, and was happy with the results. You can see the straightened pieces of barrel already on the piece.
Another challenge Jeff faces when working on a piece of this magnitude is finding the space for it and getting all the way up to the top safely. Here’s a picture of the most open area in the studio- taken up by a single crate!
Jeff uses a ladder and scaffolding to get up to the top of the piece. Much to the chagrin of his wife, it is necessary for him to stand on the very top step of his ladder to work (evidence of this is in the first picture of the post). Deb walked into the studio while he was up there and nearly had a heart attack, convinced he was going to fall off. Luckily he hasn’t yet, and hopefully won’t! Deb’s exchange with Jeff was overseen by Scott Gunvaldson, another artist based in Fergus Falls, who later climbed up the ladder himself. Being slightly taller than Jeff, he was able to reach the top of the sculpture without precariously placing himself on the top rung. He made sure Deb knew of his safety once he climbed back down.
Overall, Jeff is surprised and pleased by how this latest sculpture is turning out. He was worried it would end up being “just ok”, since he wasn’t sure he’d get his hands on the right found metal to tie everything together. However, he feels the old barrel metal adds the perfect amount of dimension to the piece and can’t imagine the sculpture without it. As an added bonus, he announced the other day (in reference to the kinetic aspects of the sculpture) that “it works!”. He’s excited to bring this giant piece to upcoming shows, and I hope you’re all excited to see it in action!
Let Jeff know what you think of his sculpture by ‘liking’ it on Facebook and/or leaving a comment below. Feedback is always welcome!