John Bisbee’s mesmerizing sculptures made with nails are pushing the limits of the current concepts of Art, while creating a mature body of work that magnetizes viewers with both its grace and strength.
Think about the triviality of nails. Consider the effect of time over these more than common tools. Imagine the transfiguration they undergo, according to the various shades that rust gradually gives them as it covers their surface, metamorphosing them into something apparently different. And yet, they remain mere nails.
It takes the eye and the sensibility of an artist to see in rusty nails the dramatic potential these objects offer as medium to create art works. And that is what John Bisbee accidentally discovered as he was scavenging for abandoned, discarded objects to use in a series of sculptures.
Bisbee, an eccentric artist, a brilliant creative mind and an inspirational teacher, is currently an artist in residence at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. His deep, contradictory personality impressed Mark Wethil, Visual Arts Department Chair at Bowdoin, who immediately realised he had just met someone very special. Creative, rebellious, athletic and dyslexic, Bisbee has truly electrified the world of art production with his concept of suspended thought. “It appears to me that in making objects out of materials that tend to be disconcerting for the viewer, he achieves a kind of hard beauty, even if the thing itself isn’t lovely”, says Dan O’Leary, Director of the Portland Museum of Art about Brisbee.
And, indeed, John Bisbee’s creations offer viewers sculptures holding wonderful tensions, for they may at first suggest a cold, formal exploration of mass, line, shape and geometry, to later unfold into awesome, stunning artworks made of thousands of nails dramatically displaying the intersection between nature and man-made materials, between nature and industry, between labour and obsessiveness. His creative process further illustrates this man/Nature tension, for he builds his sculptures by welding together a ton of identical elemental forms, therefore assigning his works with a rare distinctiveness of his own.
John Bisbee’s sculptures, some of which may expand and consume an entire wall or room, actually push the boundaries both of his chosen material and the current concepts of Art, while at the same time keeping a fundamental restraint that is born out of the artist’s self-imposed discipline.