Indiana Living Green Magazine March 2010

Creative Sustainability: Two Artists Make Something Old New Again WRITTEN BY MARIANNE PETERS FRIDAY, 26 MARCH 2010 00:00 Neither Chris Jaworski nor Ernie Taylor has formal art training. What they know about sculpture they learned on their families’ farms: how to dismantle and repair equipment, how to use what’s on hand. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes abstract, sometimes startlingly realistic, their creations range from tabletop objects to statues more than 10 feet tall. Each artist brings a different philosophy to his creative process, but they have this in common: the vision to see something new emerging from something discarded. Puzzle Pieces When people ask award-winning artist Chris Jaworski what he does for a living, he says with a smile, “Do you have an hour?” Landscape designer, horticulturist, sculptor, inventor and entrepreneur, he sees possibility in a pile of rusty hardware. Raised on a small farm near South Bend, Jaworski has a passion to honor his rural past by using farm tools to make fine art. He began his sculpting career with equipment from his family’s operation after he saw another repurposed metal sculpture. “Like most farmers, I saw that piece and said, ‘I can do that!’ ” Working with rescued implements such as “the older the better” tractors and cultivators, Jaworski first dismantles them, but leaves each part intact. “The shape of the metal tells me what it wants to be.” One piece of sculpture can take months as he waits for that last crucial component. Then, after grinding off the rust and debris, he welds the pieces together into a finished work. Creative Sustainability Chris Jaworski is also the inventor of the Octopot Garden Vertical Growing System, a container garden that can be used in small spaces such as patios or balconies. Jaworski’s artwork and professional landscape design services are available through his web site Jaworski and his wife, Robin, make their home in Union, Mich., on 18 acres along the shores of Baldwin Lake, just across the Indiana state line. A Purdue University-educated horticulturist and landscaper, he wants to transform the site into sculpture gardens where people can enjoy his creations in a natural environment. Society, he believes, is increasingly industrialized — people need to reconnect with the land before they can think about preserving it. On his property, toothy dinosaurs roam, fanciful plants bloom and abstract shapes add focal points. “My goal is to offer an environment of art and education that supports the idea of local agriculture and brings attention to the disappearing family farm,” he says. Jaworski’s works have garnered him recognition and many awards, including the 2009 Mayor’s Award at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, chosen from among 300 other works; the Best Sculpture award at the 2008 Krasl Art Fair in St. Joseph, Mich.; and the 2008 Carmel International Arts Fair. His sculptures are on permanent display at the Kinsey Institute Gallery at Indiana University. “It’s History, Honey” Ernie Taylor, a spry 80-something, made his living as a welder, a skill that comes in handy nowadays. Like Chris Jaworski, a background in farming taught him to dismantle farm implements, which he now picks up at auctions and uses to create unique folk art. Unlike Jaworksi, however, he doesn’t hesitate to reshape each piece into whatever his imagination conjures up. The field next to his modest home on State Road 32 near Zionsville displays row after row of his creations, often startling passing motorists. Giant spiders crouch, their long legs made of rebar. A dinosaur towers overhead. Whirligigs slowly rotate in the breeze. Taylor and his wife, Dot, gladly give impromptu tours for anyone who stops by. Taylor’s imagination never stops. After a dead tree trunk clogged up a stream on his property, he hauled it out of the water. In a moment of inspiration, he washed the mud off the roots and stuck the trunk in a barrel. Then he fashioned an eagle out of scrap metal, painted it, and placed it on the trunk, where the now-bare roots resemble an eagle’s nest. People want to buy his objects, but Taylor isn’t selling. “Money takes the fun out of it,” he said. Eight years ago, after six decades of working hard every day as a welder, he survived a heart attack that left him in a coma for 30 days. Once he regained consciousness, he decided to slow down. At age 72, he learned to play the guitar. Eventually he started sculpting. He and Dot also have several barns full of 19th century farm and household artifacts. Both avid collectors, Taylor says they didn’t start out to be sculptors or museum curators, but they enjoy receiving visitors and talking about the way things used to be. “It’s history, honey,” says Dot. Her husband doesn’t dwell on the past, however. He’s busy inventing his next object. Living sustainably means living deliberately. It takes imagination to incorporate reducing, reusing and recycling into everyday life, to use what’s on hand instead of always seeking new resources. Ernie Taylor and Chris Jaworski, in making brand new art out of old junk, demonstrate how creative a sustainable life can be.