Encore October 2016

Page 34


A Planet of Possibilities

The world of artist and man-about-junkyards Steve Curl by

Kara Norman

Most people who give directions to their house do not use the

words “You’ll know you have the right place when you start seeing the giant black plastic Tiki heads,” but artist and Plainwell resident Steve Curl uses many things most people don’t. Curl’s giant Tiki heads, made from discarded truck bed liners, are among the many artworks he creates from items he finds on the sides of roads and at flea markets, thrift stores or half-price days at estate sales. A friend once told him he had enough stuff to have his own planet, so, as an artist, the 53-year-old Curl goes by the name Planet Steve. In his garage a 14-foot robot made of recycled plastic towers over a collection of materials: metallic robots, extension cords, a giant chicken mask. “Be careful backing up,” Curl says. “Check your footing first because it’s just piles everywhere.” Plastic deer heads hang above Curl as he talks. 34 | Encore OCTOBER 2016

Inside the house that he shares with his wife of 22 years, Sara Shields, a senior vice president at PNC bank in Grand Rapids, the collection continues. Despite the number and variety of objects here — masks and helmets fashioned from recycled plastic items, a series of “butler robots” inspired by Rosie of The Jetsons cartoon — there is order. One corner of the basement houses Curl’s studio — “my nerd center,” says Curl — a room filled with possibility. A wall of cubbies displays cans of spray paint in every color imaginable. Across the room, a large TV looms in front of an antique barber chair, surrounded by workbenches teeming with tools. Curl describes his home — a three-story mid-century house set back from the road — as “eccentric and worn down,” a phrase that also describes much of the material he uses. His furnace room holds a trashcan full of aluminum bats that will become robot legs. Another

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