Who knew Bob Dylan was an excellent sculptor? Most of us Bob-followers knew he was a good painter, but somehow I missed this aspect of his creativity. He is in the news this week because a new resort casino in Maryland is installing a massive iron gate of his devising. I guess he mentioned in his memoir, Chronicles, that he works with iron, but it blew right past me when I read it. The works are incredibly elegant and energetic assemblages of "found" iron elements from machinery and so forth. It's cool how he makes heavy objects feel as light as a Joseph Cornell magic box. Here's what the New York Times says in their recent article, cleverly titled "Another Side of Bob Dylan," in homage to his early LP:
“I’ve been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid,” Mr. Dylan said at the time. “I was born and raised in iron ore country” — Hibbing, Minn. — “where you could breathe it and smell it every day. And I’ve always worked with it in one form or another.”
Of his new public-art archway (titled “Portal”), Mr. Dylan added: “Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed, but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways, there is no difference.”
The artist uses found objects and scrap metal from junkyards — “everything from farm equipment, children’s toys, kitchen utensils and antique fire arms to chains, cogs, axes and wheels,” according to an announcement from MGM National Harbor.
The key to creating good collage art is to have the correct object at your fingertips when you need it. The picture below (by John Shearer) shows how Dylan's objects are organized in his massive work space. This mode of working makes sense for Dylan, since his songwriting oeuvre was built by combining and re-purposing lyrical and melodic elements from the hundreds or thousands of traditional folk and blues songs that he knows. There's a reason he called on of his recordings Love and Theft.