a r t i s t o f t h e m o n t h
Interview with Heath Satow
by Rocío Heredia
Metal plays an essential function in your artwork. What was your first introduction to metalwork?
My first sculpture, really. At the School I went to, the wood shop was always full of people, but the welding shop was nearly empty. I started playing around in there since there was so much room, and fell in love with the material. The summer job I worked then also heavily used metal in its work.
What influences have driven your technique?
That's really hard to say. That sculpture studio job informed my sensibilities quite a bit, but I grew far beyond that once I left. I actually had to work at pulling myself away from some of the sculptural "rules" of that studio. I mostly look at Art and architecture a lot and see what works for my eye. When I see something I really like, I look at it for a long time to try and discover just why that piece or space works so well. I guess my primary goal is first to create an object that works well in a specific place, and the content informs the choice of object, but doesn't rule my decisions.
I wonder if you are influenced by a particular place or space around you?
My shop. I love to just hang out in the shop and look at my works in progress, pieces of scrap metal, my tools… everything has so much character that it's hard to not find some inspiration for the next piece.
Has anyone close to you had any influence in your work, your parents, teacher?
My father had the biggest influence on my decision to go into sculpture as a
profession. Not directly, but it was the fact that he had the courage to move
his family many, many miles and start all over just to pursue a dream of his. It
didn't work out the way he hoped, but he always said he learned so much from the
experience and was never sorry he did it. I love that attitude and I find
strength in that. He also loves working with his hands, and I always admired
that quality. My mother strongly supported my growth as an artist since she has
always been a painter. No matter how little money we had, I always seemed to
have Art supplies. Later in life, all my high School teachers told me I had a
gift that I should pursue, so they really influenced my decision to go into
Are there any contemporary, historical sculptors, or artists that you specifically admire?
Martin Puryear is probably my favorite contemporary artist. He creates beautiful objects that I can stare at for hours.
Where do your ideas come from?
That's hard to say. I always start by gathering imagery about the subject - searching on the Internet for images associated with words, with things. I fill my head with pictures. What do I want to convey? What sorts of shapes would work in this space? The two start coming together as I throw out certain ideas, strengthen some others, and add new ones. It all feels like a waste of time after a week or two, but then it usually comes together in a single burst, then the real idea is "there." Once that happens, I set about working out all the finer details.
As I see your works, I feel your perspective is exceptional. This perspective seems to get the spectator into the Art piece. How would you describe your sculpture?
Wow, another tough one. My main goal is to first create a beautiful object, something that will seduce you to stare at it, spend some time with it. Once that is accomplished, you actually have a chance to say something to the viewer. If you don't grab someone's attention immediately, seduce their eye, you will never get them to learn anything more about the piece. Any meaning in my work is subtle, and it takes some looking to "get it" for most pieces. That's not true for all my work, but most of it. That has been something I have been working towards for some time now. I guess that is how I try to "get the spectator into the Art piece" as you say.
While looking through your portfolio, I find you received a rather large Sculpture commission for the Raleigh Durham Airport. Will you please tell us about that?
I was invited to send slides to a Competition for a sculpture for the new terminal they are building. Out of many artists that sent in slides, they picked three of us to create presentations. I struggled with ideas for that project for two months; finally nailing down the idea that we rarely think anymore about how amazing it is that we can fly now. That was my goal then, to try to create a piece that related the "wonder" of flying. I wanted to liken it to a religious experience of sorts.
Would you please describe your design for "Dream of Flight," in both conceptual and technical terms?
Dream of Flight is a sculpture intended to remind us of a time before we soared among the clouds. A time when our ancestors dreamed of reaching the heavens and, for us as children, the awe we had for flight before experiencing our first take-off. The sculpture consists of three figures looking wistfully to the heavens, arms outstretched. Their reverent poses entice us to look with them at the sky above. As we gaze upward, their images materialize in the clouds. Today, air travel is so common that we tend to forget what an amazing thing it is to fly. This sculpture will serve to remind us of the wonder and awe the sky held for us before we learned to fly.
The floor design is a globe expressed in shades of grey terrazzo. Anchored to this floor will be three identical figures fabricated from 14 gauge 304 stainless steel with a patterned 40 grit grind finish. These sculptures will each weigh approximately 160 pounds. Above these figures on the floor will be a frame structure anchored to the center of the roof beams. The frame will have a trussed main structure fabricated from 1/4" 304 stainless steel rod. This entire structure will have a brushed finish and will weigh approximately 220 pounds. Suspended from this frame will be 1000 pieces of waterjet cut stained glass. Of these, 740 will be light blue streaked glass and 260 uniform cobalt blue. The combined weight of these pieces will be approximately 85 pounds.
Is Dream of Flight your biggest artwork to date?
It is my largest single piece to date, yes, both in size and budget.
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