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Steel and Bone, the making of "Flourishing Decay: Anxiety"

"Flourishing Decay: Anxiety" is part of an ongoing series I'm doing that explores the relationship between natural and artifice, life and death, and objects that just aren't....quite right.

The prompt for this project was to weld a steel sculpture that embodied a feeling or an idea. I chose to represent "anxiety", which I have a close working relationship with.

My thought is that my anxiety feels like a growth that can be seen in the corner of your vision. You can try to ignore it, but you can see it there no matter how hard you try.

My original plan was to make it entirely out of steel (see my topsy turvy cardboard concept to the right), and was having trouble figuring out how to get the organic curves I wanted with the tube steel cutoffs my roommate provided.

My aunt and uncle unwittingly came to the rescue when I visited them on a drive through Wyoming. See, they built a career out of making antler chandeliers, and their backyard had a massive pile of damaged antlers that they collected out in the mountains or that other people brought to them. They were too bleached and brittle from laying on the ground years, and you can't make quality hunting-lodge light fixtures out of those, no sir. I loaded my car entirely full of antlers and hoped deerly that I did not get into a crash.

I still used steel tubes as a base. The tubing was so thin I was having a hard time not blowing through it. The good news about art though....I can just grind my welds off and slap some paint on it. Structural integrity be damned. Its art, not a spaceship. (To our left you can see the process of cleaning up these truly terrible welds.)

Choosing where the antlers were going to go was an exciting process that involved a lot of head tilting.

Once I found the placement that I liked, I drilled 1/4" holes in the ends of the antlers and made 1/4" steel posts to hang the antlers on.

And speaking of drilling into antlers.....


I have never seen a calcified lung before and I hope that I never do. You should always wear a dust mask or respirator when working around dusty things, but this and anything involving silica are things I especially do not mess around with.

Once every bone found its home, it was time to pull them off and start painting. I used only the classiest spray paint found in my local Home Depot for the metal, and airbrushed the antlers using water based paint from Custom Paints Inc.

I wanted to have an ombre effect, and decided to go with the color that charred antler is as my transition color, leaving the rest of the antler to be its natural, sun bleached and weather worn, dirty self.

The end result was definitely creepy, and during my critique it was called many things, including:

  • Upsetting

  • Uncanny

  • Disturbing

  • Resembling an Eldritch Being Peeking into our Realm

  • Something that would look good above a fireplace

  • Something that would look very wrong above a fireplace

So all in all I think it was a great success.

I was a little bummed that the corner I chose for my presentation was not flush with the ceiling, and the walls were so crooked I couldn't slide in my safety-rod that I made and had to use C clamps. The upside was that the lighting there was fantastic. Who needs more antlers when you can do shadow puppet theater? Oh well. It now has a home right against the ceiling in my living room where it can remind me of all the things I haven't gotten done if I sit down to watch TV.

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