Sunday, August 6, 2017

Tom Joyce - Sculptor

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t drop out of school at 16 and be a success.  It just depends what you want to do with the rest of your life.  If perchance you decide you would like to forge hot steel for a living you may have a chance.  So it was with Tom Joyce (b.1956-) who picked up his first hammer when he was 14 and by the age of 16 he had made up his mind that was what he wanted to do.  When asked about how he learned, his response is always, “I had a classic black smith’s training.”.  Black smith for me always makes me think of horse-shoes not 3 ton sculptures.  Tom’s work has developed from practical items such as agricultural tools made from worn iron hand-me-downs, to a gate near our home on the old Santa Fe Trail, to major steel sculptures weighing many tons.


Whenever, I am asked about Tom Joyce I immediately say that I met him before he received the half million-dollar MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2003.  Why? So no one thinks it is because of the award we tried to meet him!  Around that time he invited us to breakfast at his home.  It was and is the only time I have been asked to fetch my own eggs from the hen house ... hey, I’m a city kid!


His work has been shown all over the world and can be found in the collections of the Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C., the Minneapolis and Detroit Institutes of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York among others.

There is presently an exhibition of Tom’s work called “Tom Joyce: Everything at Hand” at the Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Santa Fe.  It occupies their new sculpture garden as well as the entire museum gallery, and it will be up until the end of the year.  An unusual aspect of CCA that it is on an Armory campus and the building now housing the art gallery is the original Tank Garage -- a good thing for Tom since the floor and even the walls can hold thousands of pounds in weight, which would not work in a normal museum building.  This outdoor sculpture “Aureole VI” which is over 6 feet in diameter weighs 4,407 lbs was created this year surely for this space.


Tom is a celebrity artist who has not let it go to his head: he is a very modest guy.
Listening to Tom speak, which he did at the museum the other day, expecting 20 people to show up and ending with about 220.  We learned of his fascination with iron and steel and their unending challenges.


He has worked with forges both in this country and abroad.  He told us that he now pays by the minute to use a large industrial facility so he cannot afford too many mistakes.  Therefore, he works with models in his studio here in Santa Fe making sure that his ideas can work on a very large and heavy scale. He was speaking to us in front of two sculptures “Bloom IV and Bloom V done last year of forged high carbon steel.  The smaller sculpture weighing 15,750 pounds and the larger 26,815 lbs.  These very large pieces are a composite of several smaller pieces of steel.


His huge sculptures come from industrial manufacturing castoffs.  As he says, “It’s a sculpture now, but it’s a store of material, and in my eyes, always tied to it origins.  Its practical nature ensures that it will be used again for another purpose and that most assuredly it will be here long after I’m gone.”  When was the last time that you heard an artist admit that his work might be destroyed to be used for another purpose?  In history it is not unusual for metals to be melted down for better and for worse!  It’s all part of the continuum…  To demonstrate that he believes what he says, he created an installation of light.  The label says, “Untitled (3-D printed tools made and/used by the artist) 2017.  Stereolithography printed clear polycarbonate-like plastic, LED lights, dimensions variable”. The hanging elements are casts of the tools he used to make a living before turning to sculpture.


Some of his multi-ton sculptures actually have the appearance of being squishy.  Take a look at this one called ”Lignifact I” created this year in 4 pieces of forged stainless steel weighing 14,000 pounds.


CCA also has a marvelous film program with two movie theatres which gets top billing on their website so if you go to https://www.ccasantafe.org be sure to click on “Visual Arts” at the top of the page for museum hours and other practical information.

3 comments:

  1. Missives From The Art World - always good!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Nick. Not totally surprised you like reading about a fellow contemporary artist

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  2. Very efficiently written information. It will be beneficial to anybody who utilizes it, including me. Keep up the good work. For sure i will check out more posts. This site seems to get a good amount of visitors. John Abery

    ReplyDelete