Saturday, August 1, 2009

Interview with metal sculptor Brian Mock [Sunday spotlight]

This month, sculptor Brian Mock will have the first solo show at SCRAP's Re:Vision Gallery. I'm particularly excited for the exhibit, as recycled metal art is a favorite of mine. Brian's work spans a wide range, from rustic metal fish to tables to tall, elegant, painstakingly crafted statues. 

"Round 'n Found 3". All images courtesy of Brian Mock. 

"Winged Woman"

"Handstand"

The opening reception will be this Friday, August 7th, 2009, from 6-8 pm. Here's a map to the gallery, which is at 2915 NE MLK Jr. Blvd. in Portland, OR. 

I caught up with Brian at Re:Vision for a conversation as the exhibit was going up.

BMCB: How did you get into making metal sculptures?

Brian Mock: I grew up drawing, painting, taking electronic things apart, dismantling things, putting them back together. I went into wood carving and sculpting a little bit. I started doing bird houses and putting metal on the roofs (this was before I was welding) so I ended up getting a welder -- no, actually I was doing this auto sculpture and there was no welding. It was all just very time-consuming handcraft. Then from there I just naturally went into welding. 

I liked the idea of using recycled and found objects and reclaimed metals, otherwise I'd be working in a fabrication shop or something. So it was kind of, let's see what I can make out of something I found off the street or collected.

"Bromwells," non-welded auto sculpture

So where do you get your materials?

I've collected over the years and made connections during shows or exhibits -- people that have worked in the construction industry, people that might have a garage that they want to go through. And to have a box of goodies in my driveway some morning is kind of nice. 

I don't do a lot of dumpster diving. I used to dumpster dive when I first started. I spent a lot of time hunting and over the years just accumulated a lot of stuff, but never enough. There's never enough. I'm always looking, still.

Are you mostly self-taught?

Yeah. I've never taken a welding class or sculpting class. I've taken painting classes and drawing classes. That's where my true love is, it's painting, but I just haven't had the time to do it, to cultivate it. I'd like to incorporate painting in sculptures and stuff. To make my own canvases out of recycled material and paint.

Who are your artistic influences?

Not really who, but where. I see it every day when I'm around artists. It's pretty influential. I don't have any one particular -- I think it's just a wide range, just a family. You know, here in Portland, in the Northwest, I just feel like I belong. I don't feel like an outcast. So I can't really think of any one particular artist. 

Some people have said some of my stuff reminds them of H.R. Giger.

"Bowl"

What's the creative process like for you? This wing nut bowl seems very time-consuming to put together.

It's monotonous sometimes, working with the same material. The wing nut woman consists of about 7,000 wing nuts. I know by weight. By the time I was done with that I didn't want to work with a wing nut for a long time, so I didn't do my wing nut things, and I'm out of wing nuts now. I got them from a machine shop -- they were offs. These weren't all done together. I had to wait a while in between to work with them. 

I made this bowl so you couldn't see any of the welds from [the top] but on [the underside], like the outside of [the winged woman], you can see all of them.

"Winged Woman," detail

What are you working on now?

I'm working on commissions, and I'm actually working on a painting, too, this week.

Trophy commissioned by NW Energy Efficiency Alliance

Do you plan out the way things are going to look ahead of time or form them as you go?

I do plan, but I'm not meticulous about what it's going to look like because I never know what it's going to look like. It's always a surprise to me. That's why commissions are so interesting for me to do. I always tell the person I'm doing the commission for, this is vaguely what it's going to look like. They usually understand, but if someone wants something a particular way it becomes difficult because I say, I don't know what I have to work with. I just find stuff. 

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You can see Brian's work at the Re:Vision Gallery through the end of August, 2009. An online gallery of his work is also available on his website

If you liked this interview, be sure to check out the sidebar to the left for other artist spotlights. 

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