Since prehistoric times, humans have always found a way to use their resources available to make structures based on their needs, whether it was for a belief or a functional purpose. As humans, we have created everyday objects to accompany us as we have given life to materials and transformed them into something new based on our imaginations. In the modern era, we still replicate some of those patterns and methods that our ancestors used.
The American sculptor Vince Skelly combines artistic processes that include collective memory and materials to create wooden sculptures inspired in ancient dolmen structures. From the relationship between ancient forms and their similarity to modern art and architecture, he connects with our prehistoric past and brings these pieces to our present by creating playful structures and furniture with a strong and unique personality from the wood carving method.
Through improvisation and creativity, humans have used existing forms and materials to reshape them in new and different ways. Thanks to the magic in the improvisational creative process given by traditional practices and techniques, Skelly has been skillfully making and combining shapes that, as a result, have been transformed into forms of functional sculptures.
Working with single blocks of wood and using their natural characteristics has given Skelly the opportunity to use processes that allow him learning, from the trial-error-method to the improvisation. “There’s plenty of room for error working with a single block of wood. I use a chainsaw to rough out the form in a loose gestural way. That can lead to cuts that are too deep and forces me to improvise to come up with a solution. This can lead to exciting results that I couldn’t have come up with otherwise. Improvisation is a significant part of the process and often doesn’t get a lot of credit”, explains.
The use of wood also plays an important role in Skelly’s work as it connotes a symbolic and spiritual meaning. Instead of buying his materials at a store, he collects them at its natural source. “In today’s world, wood is symbolic as a reminder of climate change. It’s a natural resource with a variety of uses that we’ve always relied on. Trees yield timber that we use for cooking, shelter, transportation – daily things we often take for granted”.
Ancient societies have used nature’s elements to create everyday objects and architectural structures such as the Stonehenge or the Parthenon. This has paved the way for today’s wood carvers and other artists that work with similar materials. “We’re starting to see more and more wood carvers making sculptural furniture so I’m interested to watch it evolve. It’s a relatively low attended artform compared to other traditional crafts like ceramics. I see more and more people getting into it. Personally, I’m heading towards creating work on an architectural scale.”
When asked about his next steps as a sculptor, Vince says that he is heading towards creating work on an architectural scale while keeping an artistic approach. One of his goals is to design sculptural places to live in. “A mix of André Bloc, Foster Rhodes Jacksons (a local architect from my hometown Claremont who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright), and The Flintstones. I imagine it being built out of stone, wood, and glass.”
Vince Skelly’s work honors the past as it shows that structures and everyday objects can coexist with nature and bring us closer to its grandiosity. As we keep on sculpting new forms and creating new possibilities of art, we are still deeply connected to our past and our
ideas are rooted in what existed before these present times.