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Aug – Sep 2013 | Vol 2 No 1

A Man of Metal Sculptor Scott Cawood Images by Intent The Photography of Keron Psillas Art for Art’s Sake: Unveiling Artomatic@Jefferson Beer by Design: The Art of Brewing Ears, Eyes & Soul Billy Thompson, American Roots Guitarist Agri:Culture Backtracking Savoir:Fare Canal House Fiction Zachary Davis Poetry Paul Grant Ed:Cetera Søren Kierkegaard on The Oprah Winfrey Show Coda Found Art

“Delaware Water Gap” by Keron Psillas

a man of metal: Sculptor Scott Cawood

By Sheila Vertino


ulking pieces of rusted steel, stacked to the rafters, greet you as you enter metal artist Scott Cawood’s studio near Antietam Creek. Some things,

like bicycle chains and vintage silver spoons, you recognize. Others look vaguely automotive, their original purpose dulled by years of weather and neglect. Yep, Scott notes, “If it’s made out of metal, I probably have one.” Another thing you notice is near orderliness in the studio. Despite the fact that there are thousands of objects of all sizes and shapes, like-things are organized: typewriters here, exhaust pipes there, retired oil drums out back. “What I usually do is make piles. When you move them around and play with them, you understand how they are going to work.”


“Rise Up“ in the studio. Photo by the artist. 12 | fluent

Metal Intimacy Being able to transform scrap into sculptural forms requires deep knowledge of the properties of metals. Scott’s introduction began in the Coast Guard, at a Navy school where he excelled at making aluminum airframes for helicopters. “It was a kind of high-end riveting, and I had a knack for it. I was as surprised as anybody else!” Years later, he studied blacksmithing. “That was metal a couple of steps past what I knew about — metallurgy, intimate properties, what temperatures, how to weld it.” From forge welding, Scott moved on to electric arc and gas welding, which is what he uses on his sculptures today. At his open studio on the first Saturday of each month, people often bring Scott scrap metals, like these shapely motorcycle exhaust pipes. “I usually have a really specific idea that I want to convey, and then I let the materials define that.” Over the years Scott has learned, “If I predetermine that form too much, it just comes out lifeless. But if you let it talk to you, it will take its own form. It will take it where you don’t exactly think it was going to go.” “Rise Up” installation.

PHOTOS TOP Sheila Vertino

Taking hold of exhaust pipes, Scott demonstrates how, “They almost look like a bowsprit — here’s her legs, here are her shoulders. I’ll make her hair coming out from the head like in the wind.”

This is Success? Why Do I Feel So Bad? Recently, Scott’s masterwork, “Rise Up,” was installed at the Center for Joint Surgery and Sports Medicine in Hagerstown. As he closed one chapter in his life and prepared to open another, he shares how that transition felt: I was living with it [“Rise Up’s” three figures] morning, noon and night for 18 months. I didn’t really think about when it’s not going to be here…. But by the third or fourth day [after the installation], it was like there was something missing…. I walked around in circles. Took a walk. Took a bicycle ride. Caught up on my laundry. Painted the porch. Pulled the weeds. Started doing all that stuff, to stay busy. But then I woke up and I just felt empty…. This is success? Why do I feel so bad? A good friend told him it sounded like post-partum depression. “I said, ‘I don’t really know. I never had a kid.’ She said, ‘Scott, you just had three kids. Not only that, right after you had ’em, you put them up for adoption!’ ” Scott muses, “Best way I can describe it is, there’s a hole in my soul and the wind’s just rushing through it.” PHOTOS BOTTOM C. Kurt Holter

Frame for the sweat lodge.

Purification Inside the Sweat Lodge This week I’ll do a sweat lodge for a day. That’ll make me feel a lot better. Closing one chapter and opening the door on another. It helps me let go of it…. It’s like going to church. I fast 36–48 hours before. Lots of water, flush out my system. I have a place on top of the mountain where I get the rocks. Mostly quartz or limestone. Good, old, mountain rock. I go to a spring that a buddy has. Clear water gushing out of the mountain. A pile of cherry wood that when I got it, I said, ‘This is going to be sweat lodge wood.’ I’ll rebuild the lodge while the rocks are heating up. Cover the lodge with moving blankets. If it’s going to rain, I’ll put a tarp over it. I usually do 3–4 rounds, which last anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes…. I build up to it to get acclimated. I burn some herbs, try to get my head right, flush everything out…. There’s no weight of thought or desires or anything…. In the days afterwards, I’ll be whistling, happy. Nothing bothers you. You feel spiritually, physically and emotionally refreshed. I’m really unfocused.

It feels good because in my work I am focused so much. Maybe that’s what I like so much about it…. I have a day or two to take it in, then go on vacation for a couple of weeks, go fishing, stay completely out of the shop, and when I come back I’ll be ready to go! u

“Siren of TI Chopper,” on permanent display, casino floor at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas. Info:

Biggest, Most Ambitious, Dangerous Scott’s creative inspiration is already stirring, and he’s planning a new series of sculptures which he says will be his biggest, most ambitious yet — and dangerous. “It’s going to be big and heavy, so I have to find a place to build a sound structure” that will allow him to move the pieces around while he works on them. The vision, in Scott’s words, is to “get to consciousness.” The sculptures will each use the same woman’s face, but “Instead of hair, I’ll use exhaust pipes for one, and 300 steel rods in another. One will be the galaxy, and stars will come out of her head. One will have a tree growing from the top of her head and the roots around her face. Another will be a heron taking off with the woman’s face in the heron’s chest.” And with skill, and focus, Scott Cawood will coax consciousness out of steel. fluent PHOTO Sheila Vertino

“The name of the piece is ‘Last Call,’ part of my maneater series of women’s shoes. The teeth and spines are made from finish nails.”

16 | fluent

PHOTO Michael Davis


From Scott’s “Bluesmen” series: “Bukka,” Delta bluesman guitarist and singer Bukka White (above); “Furry,” countryblues guitarist Furry Lewis (top right); and “Son,” Delta singer and guitarists Son House (right). “I skinned them with the steel out of 275-gallon oil tanks. Everybody’s getting rid of them, so I started collecting them or people would give them to me. I like the pits and irregularities of the material. It gives it character. Right away, I saw skin or leather, this great texture that I don’t know any other way to get.” Cawood opens his studio to the public the first Saturday of every month from 12–5 pm: 3229 Harpers Ferry Road, Sharpsburg, Md 21782. (For directions, see his website.) | 301.432.2131

PHOTO Sheila Vertino

Cawood Special Edition