Why I Forge Steel
I borrow from the elements of the natural world. An emerging stem or blossom, an unfurling leaf or fern frond, a bird on the wing, or the dappled shadows cast from an early morning sun are the forms that inspire me. These are ephemeral and transitory, on a continuum of becoming or finishing. I draw abstractly, sometimes only a gesture or at other times in precise detail the information I have gleaned from my subject; but always my goal is to find a subject, to render its essence, to touch upon its evolving transitory nature. As I draw I feel an actual tension in my chest, a pull or urge. I am drawn to the expression of the movement itself and find my paper covered with a variety of arcs and turns that define both the contours of the form and the space and energy around it.
Perhaps it seems counter intuitive to then translate these drawings into forged and fabricated steel forms. Wouldn't the plasticity of clay be better suited to this task? Steel is hard and sharp if nothing else. It changes shape only with the extreme forces of heat, pressure, or torque. Its behavior is unyielding. I am drawn to it for all its stubbornness, its refusal to bend in multiple directions, to become synclastic. It has a material memory that is incalcintrant causing it to lean back to its original form. Just as we humans have memories that imbed into our somatic structure causing us in time to become bent or arthritic, the steel always embodies its history. When I attempt to shape it I use as much force as I can muster while still coaxing, loving it into a modified shape. I must work hard on the transitions to transform what is sharp and axial into something that is more subtle or gentle. But the trail of the movement is there in the hammer marks, the scale that escaped from the carbon in the heating, the black that contains its shadow. These are the evocative elements that steel brings to me as a sculptor.
I remember an address by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, folklorist and founder of Sweet Honey and the Rock, when she said that "creation is a birthing, it does not come out easily but only through kicking and screaming." When I paint and draw I am creating an illusion, something imaginary, a picture to another world. When I am forging iron into a shape or fabricating elements together into a volumetric form I am making a material object. I am attempting to make manifest an idea or sensibility about the natural world and its transitory, yet beautiful nature. I allow the process to speak. As I yield to that process and its unfurling a form takes shape that embodies that urge in my soul. Carl Jung would suggest that this is a magnetic pull toward an unknowable archetype. I find tremendous resonance in that.