A massive steel sculpture that seemed to be at once expanding and folding in on itself sits outside Charlotte Jackson Fine Art in Santa Fe. It stopped my husband and I in our tracks as we analyzed it for a moment trying to figure out how it was made.
The artist is Jeremy Thomas, a local artist who has been working in this vain for 10 years. He calls the work “inflatables” due to the process he invented of welding shapes together and blowing air into them. The air is blown into the piece while it is being heated in a kiln so the metal will bend. There is an element of surprise in the finished product due to the unpredictability of how the piece will expand. The result is an expansion of volume that creates a feeling of lightness and playfulness.
His sculptures attracted me because of their use of steel and their nod to modernists such as Ellsworth Kelly, David Smith and Anthony Caro. My own sculptural work began in steel so I have a soft spot for the material and traditional approaches. I am ever fascinated with an artist that has the ability to make a heavy object look light or a hard object appear soft. Both of these illusions are present in Thomas’ work.
Because Thomas’ work is essentially pure form, they awaken my own sculptural lust of objects. His pieces are often juxtaposed with bold color and oxidized steel that has a velvety rust hue. Thomas’ pallet is influenced by growing up in Oklahoma, where brightly colored farm equipment littered the landscape. His larger pieces are powder coated. On his small pieces he uses nail polish to color is work, which often has iridescent quality that refracts light. His pallet includes lady like pink as well is fire engine red, black and white. He explains in his artist statement, “Masculinity and femininity are not material forms but rather social constructs. Creases, folds, wrinkles, curved lines, bulges; these are things that make sensual erotic form.”
As playful as the sculptures are they do have sensuality to them. Some parts fold in and others are plump. They almost behave the way flesh does. Though that is not the first place I went with my observations. To me they are beautiful forms, simple as that. I wish more contemporary artists would unapologetically embrace formalism the way Jermey Thomas does. Unmistakably advocating that the poetry of the form is king. Check out this video about his work.
Post by Debra Baxter, debrabaxter.com.