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Art students create larger-than-life metal sculptures

August 29, 2018

KOKOMO, Ind. — Sparks literally fly when Zanny Fridholm creates art.

Carefully considering the metal piece in front of her, the Indiana University Kokomo student pulls a protective mask over her face, which darkens her vision until she turns the welder on, creating sparks as she welds another piece of metal to her creation.

As she works, the metal pieces she bought from a salvage yard becomes a treasure, in the form of a tree sculpture.

“It took me a while to figure out what I was doing,” she said, noting that she made several trips to Hunt’s Salvage to find additional parts as her work continued. “I had to figure it out as I was working. It’s been a process.”

Fridholm built her sculpture as part of a New Media Art and Technology summer class, Exploration of Materials and Process, at IU Kokomo. Led by Gregory Steel, associate professor of fine arts, five students, using a welder, plasma cutter, acetylene torch, drill press, and odds and ends of scrap metal, made metal sculptures at least six feet tall. Two of the sculptures, made by Mary Ade, Kokomo; and Jon Reshkus, Peru; were selected to be displayed outside the Fine Arts Building, on the corner of Lincoln Road and LaFountain Street.

None of the students had prior experience working with metal, so the class expanded their artistic repertoire, even as it teaches them potential jobs skills.

“Any of these industrial processes, the understanding of metals, and how to cut and weld and shape them is easily translatable into typical work, but it’s also very artful at the same time.” said Steel, who has experience working as a welder. “How do I take this very sturdy material, and bend it to my will, get it to do what I want it to do, and make objects out of it, instead of a car or a machine?” 

Fridholm, from Kokomo, said while using the tools was intimidating at first, she came to enjoy it, and she hopes to continue making metal sculpture.

“My parents are kind of jealous I’m in a welding class, and I get to create art with metal,” she said.

For Matt Keller, the class was an opportunity to try a new art form.

“Branching out and trying new mediums, and new ways of making art has helped me change my mindset, and explore new ideas,” the Westfield resident said. “There’s something satisfying about melting discarded metal together, taking what was probably part of someone’s car, and turning it into art.”

Going into the salvage yard without an idea of what he wanted to do was overwhelming, Keller said, but he enjoyed the “aha” moment when the work started fitting together. 

“It was all about building a relationship between pieces, putting them together, and seeing what worked,” he said. “It was amazing to see the composition get stronger and stronger.”

Reshkus went in with an idea of what he wanted to do, but the “happy accident” of knocking his piece over changed his mind.

“I found some of my materials, and after I welded a piece on, I kicked it over, and Gregory said it was interesting. It ended up being a mistake that turned into something great,” he said.  He continued building that way, holding pieces up, looking at them, and deciding if the composition worked or not.

“I was looking for what was catching to the eye, interesting, and makes you want to stare at it for a long time,” he said.

Ade had worked in sculpture before, but not with metals.

“This class definitely pushed the boundaries of what I could do as far as art goes,” she said. “It’s made me more confident. It was something I could do to push myself, to try something new.”

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Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 08/29/2018