Maine artist, poet and abstract sculptor, Patrick Pierce, talks with me about his origin as an artist and how he works with found materials and natural processes to create massive and intricate sculptures.
The philosophies of artists-- to create, to explore a subject from a different perspective -- can show us new ways to look at concepts, both beautiful and profane, that span both time and space.
From perspectives and perceptions, his definition of what we call art is an artifact of the artistic process. His goal of creating value without taking value from others is a refreshing mantra for today's society. He plays by his own rules, with the central tenant being, "Be as true as possible to what wants to happen... It's a response to being alive."
His honesty and frank, unique view of the world is a wonderful introduction to his work and a great jumping off point for our discussion today.
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INSIDE THIS EPISODE:
Guest can be found at
Website URL: www.patrickpierce.com
Where to see Patrick's work:
Acton, MA https://powersgallery.com/
Newburyport, RI https://www.jessicahagen.com/
Deere Island, ME https://theturtlegallery.com
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This episode was produced by Matt McKee, with help from Suzanne Schultz and http://www.CanvasFineArts.com, the specialists in coaching for creatives.Support the show
Patrick Pierce Sculpture as Visual Jazz
Patrick Pierce 00:00
Today the label artist is a prison I have escaped to do what I do building words letter by letter. Blazing a trail, the sweep of life noted obliquely refracted through mind and matter. The debris of art urges me along the way. Some inner 10 year old directing me to play, make a world match the bounded joy.
Matt McKee 00:31
Hi, Matt McKee. Welcome to Cherry Bomb the podcast a series of conversations with people about food, art and sustainability. Today I'm speaking over zoom with internationally collected contemporary sculptor Patrick Pierce. Patrick, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Patrick Pierce 00:47
Hey, I'm glad to be here and nice to have a chance to talk.
Matt McKee 00:52
Absolutely. Absolutely. I had the pleasure to tour your art farm this past summer and see firsthand your body of work that involves steel, wood, paint, welding, fabrication, and so much more. I walked away thinking that I would describe your work as poetic abstraction in materials, but then I saw the tagline on your website, which will be linked in the show notes as free range sculpture, crafted in Maine salvaged from time. And I was wondering if you could expound upon that a little bit.
Patrick Pierce 01:23
Ah,well, salvage from time. It's interesting. I think since I moved up here to Maine from a white box studio kind of space. I had very gleaming pieces put out into the world, and time started working on them. So I feel like whatever survives is salvaged from time. I use a lot of old materials. I refurbish them, recut them, polish them, brighten them, liberate them into a newest asthetic structure, then I put them out in the field and time starts trying to reclaim them. So it's it's a dialogue of you think it's wants to be shiny. Well, let me tell you about iron. Time eats iron rust is its visible side. And that's where the balance that arrives at.
Matt McKee 02:16
Patrick Pierce 02:17
So I've been working towards accommodating my own understanding of wabi sabi, which is a dialog with after things are knocked around and beat up a bit. They sort of arrive at a timeless state. And I've come to realize I sometimes like that better than the gleaming artifact, which issues from my own hand. For instance, I had a piece a couple of years ago, carved out of butternut that was all gleaming, and was wood, and then granite and some rope, and I left it out for three or four seasons. And it weathered and turned black and it looked wretched. I brought it in repolished it but it looked so much better than it did the first time it went out into the world does like nature had worked on it, the cracks and faults inherent in the material became more pronounced. And so I worked with those and it felt like a more stable, long lasting and truer artifact.
Matt McKee 03:23
So you're working in collaboration, basically, with the natural processes that as they're aging, as they're changing materials, you're going back in and reasserting your will upon it to a certain extent, but at the same time, the natural processes are going to do what they do.
Patrick Pierce 03:39
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, certain pieces of work, have taken me 21 years to complete. Because, you know, all the work is one, nothing is ever really over.
Matt McKee 03:56
Patrick Pierce 03:57
I lived in Lowell for a bunch of years. And when I moved up to Maine, I left a few pieces in a warehouse. They were copper and steel and mixed metal. And some crackheads broke into the warehouse and cut all the copper off the steel. This is when they were cutting off the downspouts of churches and yeah, so I brought those pieces up and I redid them and I have this one piece called dialogue with crackhead which I like better than it was before.
Matt McKee 04:27
Wow. Okay, so there's there's, it seems like there's a certain improv that is taking place in this dialogue as well where where things happen and you react to them, and then change your change your final output?
Patrick Pierce 04:40
Absolutely. I mean, another tagline or way I understand my work is visible jazz. It's improvisatory. And I often I don't know where it's headed. I don't know it. You know, there are some main chord structures or some main forms but where it really wants to go I don't know. Sometimes I'm even at a place where "this is ugly. I don't like what's happening." But I know with what I've got here, this has to happen. So I persist. And I arrive at a place I hadn't anticipated. That's, that's why the practice of art is a path of discovery, I find what I did not know I knew. It's bio psychic feedback, telling me through materials, something that my brain hadn't quite understood yet, but my whole body and way of being new, and that directed me
Matt McKee 05:39
When did you first discover yourself as an artist? I never know quite how to ask the origin question because, you know, some people feel that they were always an artist. Some people feel that they came to it suddenly or had an epiphanous moment.
Patrick Pierce 05:57
That's a rich, layered question. Certainly growing up in Oregon, and spending a lot of time on the coast, I had my mind blown about age four, by the immensity of the cosmos, the freshness and vigor of the Pacific. There was nothing that humankind could offer that touched my experience of the cosmic thrust of nature. So at four, I had a very strong nature feeling. But it was Oregon and a long time ago. So you know, art, I didn't even know what art was. So that as an option didn't really, I just was who I was. So it's probably after college. I mean, during college, I studied poetry. My first real impulse towards the creative was verbally. So I studied literature and literary analysis at college, which made me very think-y. Not very visual, necessarily. Okay. Yeah. So after college, I went to New York, and I met a painter who introduced do LSD. And so we went to the Museum of Modern Art, that was a real life altering experience in that, from my very intellectual place about what artists do and what they are and what it is, I saw behind the screen that the state of being out of which art emerged. It probably took me 20 years of practice, to assimilate and integrate that perception into my ability to manifest what my experience was.
Matt McKee 07:45
Yeah, we always feels like we're trying to evolve towards something that we cannot define. Yeah, it's at least that's the way I feel as an artist as well.
Patrick Pierce 07:52
Well, I was just gonna say, I mean, on this in this vein did, Albert Camus said, A man's work is nothing but this slow track through the detours of art to find those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
Matt McKee 08:13
That is, that is a wonderful quote. And I feel that is true. I often feel when I when I go back to the well myself that I go back to a concept that I've been working on for decades.
Patrick Pierce 08:26
Matt McKee 08:27
just to try to get you know, it's about light. For me, as a photographer, it's about light. So I'm always going back to looking at light, I'm always going back to that base well, to start off with, and I'm, I find at the end of the process, I may have recreated something that I was trying to do before, but now I've done it different and hopefully better,
Patrick Pierce 08:43
Or Yeah, a variation on the same moment, with a slightly different perspective. My sense of our our growing perceptions is sort of like a spiral, we, we come around to the same point again, but we're at a different, maybe more evolved perspective on it.
Matt McKee 09:01
Oh, perspective is everything. And our as our perspective changes, so does our work as it refines itself. One of the questions that always occurs to me at this point is, what is the definition of art? No small question.
Patrick Pierce 09:20
I think it's badly people talk about making art and I think that's a hideous misstatement. One doesn't make art? You make sausage, but you don't make art? I think art is the inner spiritual, psychic power by which things are made. What we call art are artifacts, which are the product of art but art stays in the artist and by that power artifacts emerge.
Matt McKee 09:50
Ooh, okay, so art is the process, not the end result.
Patrick Pierce 09:54
For me, it's like a latent protean power because I think most artists are multi multiplex it that protean and creative impetus at our center has, in many cases, multiple doors of expression music or dance or words or painting. I mean, some people are very Mano focused. I agree. But I think our our human nature is like 50-50 synthesistic and analytical. I mean, we're both the associative and that which brings together and then the other hemisphere of the brain analyzes, takes apart and finds ways to make power. I think in my own terms, I've worked with both by sculpture often is working with analytical edge, geometric forms, and an embodied in a sweeping continuum of associative power. I sometimes feel like this sculpture is a diagram of a dance.
Matt McKee 11:02
Patrick Pierce 11:03
And so a lot of what the sculptures about is invisible. It these are almost like a map of turning points or relationships among elements. The visual object is Yeah, it's like a dance notation.
Matt McKee 11:18
Okay. Okay, which I always was fascinated with, because how do you take a three dimensional four dimensional medium, and then write it down. And also you combine and these wonderful ways, both natural materials like rock and wood, and things like that, and then you combine them with structural materials like steel, and iron and rope and things like that. So you're combining both sides, again, where the natural chaotic process of nature is combined with the more structural analytical side, if you will, more measured side of human created product
Patrick Pierce 11:55
As a sculptor, I find the engineering depths and actually making things come together and work is is a fascinating piece. And that dictates what happens how things look,. Sometimes I'm forced to make a choice that I might not have made if I were strictly working on visual criteria. Yeah, but it has to have structural criteria, which sometimes, okay, that's an obstacle, but then it becomes an opportunity because a new thing can happen. You know, this piece behind me, which nobody else can see is it's a packing crate, plexiglass burnt feedsack, melted steel, oil paint, it was a great time finding ways for those all to come together. And why they had to come together was there was some printing on the packing crate, and I had the plexiglass and I had just been to Sicily. So this is called Sicilian Landscape. So the necessity of the work comes out of my life. I could say all the work that I have is one work. It's a documentation of my being okay, including the elements of it. There's, there's a story about every single sculpture and in many cases, there's a story about each of the elements in the sculpture. I mean that this is sad, but it's kind of my my,
Matt McKee 13:27
my obsessive obsess, obsess about the minutiae, that of each piece that goes in but then I always tell my clients that every picture tells a story. And it's up to us how we interpret it, the artist has a certain way they want to interpret it and that's the story they're telling but the audience is going to come with a different message perhaps because of their background
Patrick Pierce 13:47
absolutely as valid. Yeah, no, it's just this whole life in the practice of art has this been I think I've said it before is been both my keel keeping me steady and the sale that keeps me going. It's, it's given me a way to orient towards a mad world that I don't have a lot of love or respect for Culturally, the values of AI when you lose on cool your pieces, the kind of attitudes that are proliferating, I think through the practice of art, I wanted to create value, and I didn't want to be at a place where by achievement was at someone else's expense. Now, I also I also didn't want to take oh, here's my heart, warm gut product, love it. I didn't want to be at a place where I was having to immediately go to sell work and put it out there and say, Hey, look at me my stuff that is great. Because I really have wanted throughout my many years to be true to the voice that is speaking through me. I'm a songbird and a course I'm putting out one true note. And I want that note to be as true and clear as I can make it without other considerations.
Matt McKee 15:09
What is your personal philosophy, what what drives you to create, you get up in the morning, you go out to the workshop or the studio and what is driving you to do that,
Patrick Pierce 15:22
when I was much younger, it was a relentless need to do something meaningful and meaningful in my own terms. So the practice of art, as I sort of have structured it is playing by my own rules. And this, the center rule is to be as true as possible to what wants to happen and to trust the impulse, even if I didn't fully understand what the moment seemed to call for. It's like, it's a response to being alive. Okay. It's It's the it's the only way I really feel like I give back to this incredibly beautiful, bountiful universe, this world that that we inhabit. mean, that's alternative to go to church and praying, I suppose. What do you wish you knew when you started? That's what has me dumbfounded. I, I don't know, I think I valued every step, both the painful and yeah, back half has been my God. I mean, as everybody have a life story. And no, it's been just a pain, I'm going to say painful at times, but also it ecstatically joyous sequence of moments that have kept me going. So when really, maybe a troubling piece has finally come together. There's a there's a an absolute certainty that this is right. This is this is it all clicks, I had one piece that few years ago, called this way through the steel and a branch carved and then formed working around it. And it was almost there. And it wasn't quite right. And I found one kind of beautiful bronze circular element. And I had put that in the middle. And suddenly the entire circuitry of the piece started moving. And it was by God, I mean, this that it was like, you know, oh, it, I turned it on. I mean, nothing moves. You know it. But yeah, the whole piece clicked. So those discoveries are there, like a beautiful sunset or a beautiful sunrise there, they're true. And you know it, regardless of who sees it, what happens to it. That's, that's a victory. That's an aesthetic victory that no one can convince me as not nature working through me at this nice, true moment.
Matt McKee 18:02
That's fascinating. Over the course of doing these interviews, when I asked that particular question, it always kind of breaks down to one of two things. Some people are looking for that moment where they wished they had known that everything was going to be okay. Or they wished that someone had come along and said, you know, you should get into ball bearings or whatever. And then there's other people who their perspective on it is that this whole thing is a process that continuum as we go along that I could not be who I am now, if it weren't for what I went through before. What would you like your legacy to be? Assuming you think about the legacy?
Patrick Pierce 18:40
Oh, yes, yes, you can see I'm a north of 60 here. So, my God, I've, it's another one that sort of staggers me. No, no, not meant.
Matt McKee 18:51
No, no, it's not meant. Oh, wow.
Patrick Pierce 18:54
I guess that's an epitaph. But I'd like to work to help as many people as possible to awaken certain sensitive energies in the presence of the work, I think, I think the sculptures create energy fields that are not immediately they're not emojis, they aren't instantly recognizable as anything. They're closer to you're walking in the woods, and you come to a rocky cliff face, and there's vines and there's patterns and it's it's very beautiful, but you have to open yourself a little bit and quiet within to see what's going on. And I feel the work I've done is always very much in dialogue with larger nature. At the same time I'm saying there's some immediately thinking of you know, that Picasso bicycle seat and bolts had the torus. Eddie said You know, I picked this out in the trashy but it's up for a while could end up back in the trash heap. I don't No I don't worry about that. I guess I really feel like my whole life has been a vibration and an attempt to resonate truly with the forces in the universe that I really
Matt McKee 20:13
revere speaking that where can people see your art in person
Patrick Pierce 20:16
around the Boston area? I have a bunch of work with powers gallery and act and down in Newport. I have a bunch of work at the Jessica Hagen Fine Art Gallery and up in Deer Isle, Maine I have some work with turtle gallery. And then terret 98 Hearn road and North Saco, Maine I have more work than you can assimilate.
Matt McKee 20:44
Absolutely, that was that was a beautiful experience. I walked away from that and then gotten back in the car with my wife and she after about a half hour she said, Okay, you can stop talking about art for a little while. It was just, it was a great experience. Oh, thank you. My last question for you the question I asked everybody at the end of the day, it is the end of the day you've worked in your workshop or studio or wherever and you're sitting down to relax. What is your comfort food?
Patrick Pierce 21:18
Well, like liquid bread, ie a good nice, dark beer is good, maybe some hummus and flatbread or cheese at all as something like that.
Matt McKee 21:34
Just something to relax with. That's wonderful. Yeah,
Patrick Pierce 21:36
little protein and oil hit and sets me up. Yeah.
Matt McKee 21:41
Wonderful. Is there anything that we have not covered that you want to talk about today, Patrick?
Patrick Pierce 21:46
Well, I had I had loved peace. It's a poem. It might encapsulate some we can eat you can delete but today, the label artist is a prison I have escaped to do what I do building words letter by letter. blazing a trail, the sweep of life noted obliquely refracted through mind and matter. The debris of art urges me along the way. Some inner 10 year old directing me to play make a world match the bone to joy.
Matt McKee 22:23
Thanks for listening to this episode of chirp on the podcast. I'm your host, Matt McKee. And today I was speaking with Patrick Pierce, an abstract sculptor based in Maine. As always, links to their website and social media can be found at the art of Matt mckee.com. Just click on the link for cherry bomb the podcast, and I'm also available on Twitter for questions and comments at Mickey photo. This episode of cherry bomb the podcast could not have been done without the help of Suzanne Schultz and Canvas Fine Arts, the specialists and coaching for creatives. Thanks for listening, and let's start the conversation