an artist you should know: Steve Heller

Steve Heller lives in the Hudson Valley off Route 28, and creates sculpture and furniture from some unlikely materials, namely pieces of old cars and wonderfully twisted wood. I learned about Heller from the book Weird New York, which lists some of the various oddities in New York State and is all kinds of awesome, and is also where I learned about Rosemary's Texas Taco in Patterson.

Anyway, Steve Heller created the pieces seen here. The first one is a side table made from a maple burl. A burl is one of those lumpy things that occur on trees sometimes due to the wood grain growing irregularly (according to Wikipedia). Instead of avoiding these growths, Heller uses them to create furniture like this, which reminds people that trees are living things with bumps and irregularities like people, not simply smooth material with which to build. A table like this serves as a reminder that it was once alive.

He also makes large scale metal sculpture like this metal bird out of scrap. This one is called the Ostrichosaurus, and they seem to stand around his property and offer their input on things. These are purely aesthetic, but still retain the general theme of Heller's work, which is the reuse of items that would otherwise be considered unusable or undesirable.

The other material Heller uses are pieces of vintage cars, creating kitschy but functional home products. The front end of a 1957 Cadillac, for example, becomes a bar with a full set of shelving in the back for storage. The head- and taillights of a 1938 Packard become a "rocket lamp," and the hood of another car (whose identity I couldn't find on the site) becomes the lid of a red cedar chest. I would guess that things like this aren't for everyone, given their bulk and their general loudness, but they're pretty cool novelty pieces. His wooden furniture, which ranges from full-sized dining room tables to small mirrors, are a little more accessible and likely work better in a wider range of homes.

I have not been up to see Heller's place in person, although I'd like to and it would be fairly easy for me to drive up there. If I ever go, I'll be sure to take pictures.