Sculptors work in contrasts together

Metal sculptors Bryant and Sharon Tubbs, 2022 Black Swamp Arts Festival Best of Show winners of the juried art show, each put on the welding hoods to create their art together.

The couple’s sculptures are typically full of contrasts.

“We start out with flat sheets of metal. We hand cut them out with a plasma cutter. We weld them together. He does MIG welding and I do TIG welding,” Sharon said. “We do them together and grind them, so they have these nice soft smooth edges. We do a variety of finishes, with an automotive tint that gives a nice shiny look to it.”

Many of their pieces incorporate natural corrosion, using corten steel that is an alloy with copper in it that contrasts with the vivid auto wet-style paint colors and ground stainless steel.

Sharon says that they don’t use any electrostatic powder coat paints.

“We want the weather to do what it does. A lot of people, when they powder coat and put it outside, if it’s not done completely, it will just corrode,” Sharon said. “The corten steel is the kind of steel they do buildings with. As it patinas, or rusts, the copper from the inside comes to the outside and seals it, so it never has holes.”

She calls it a natural, growing contrast. With both the corten and stainless steels, they also use grinding techniques which catch sunlight.

Long term, corrosion of the painted parts would upset the look and feel they attempt to achieve with their art.

Their multi-layered piece, called “Opposing Views,” required a lot of experimentation.

“It was really difficult to get the right color of purple, because there are so many different shades,” Sharon said.

The couple are from Ypsilanti, Michigan. The idea for the art started 12 years ago with a 1965 Mustang that Bryant was restoring. After finishing the restoration, his equipment remained. Yard art followed.

Bryant then taught Sharon some welding basics and they began working together.

“As time went on sizes and shapes started appearing. You start seeing beauty in everything that you do, right? And every place that you go,” Sharon said. “The music comes to you when we see things. We don’t want to be figurative. We want to keep with the abstract.

“In everything that we do, it’s going up. In that one, we have the moon rising, as opposed to the moon setting. In everything we do, we make sure it is uplifting,” Sharon said of their philosophy.

Bryant agreed.

“I see lines when I walk. I see shapes, like when I look at a building I might see a shape or design from something as simple as a brick. I can make a piece just from that. I get inspiration from everywhere, even looking at trees and nature, expressed in metal,” he said.

This is the first year the couple have exhibited at the BSAF, but are impressed with the care and preparation that organizers take with the artists. As sculptors with heavy objects, the forethought in logistical planning is also something they appreciated.

Best 2-D was awarded to Chris Plummer, printmaking and drawing artist from Niagara, Kentucky and Best 3-D was awarded to Ellen Smith, wood artist, from Bowling Green.

Second place for the juried show was Aaron Bivins, a painter from Toledo, and third place was awarded to Derrick Riley, printmaking and drawing, from Lexington, Kentucky.

Honorable mentions went to mixed media artist Xiao Xia Zhang Minich; Deborah Vivas, who works in jewelry; and painter Janet Alford.

Juried art show winners receive cash prizes: Best of Show $1,500, Best 2D $1,000, Best 3D $1,000, second place $800, and third place $500. The three honorable mention awards receive $200 each.

More information can be found on the festival website www.blackswampfest.org,