Metal artist finds his calling
in ancient art
By TONY EVANS
For the Mountain Express
Landscape artists are typically
found working behind easels or camera lenses. Twenty-nine-year-old metal
artist Blaine Fillingim of Copper Mountain Fountains and Artworks in
Ketchum prefers the hammer and blowtorch. His landscapes involve a
complicated and painstaking process called ‘repousse,’ in which copper
plates are heated and pounded into shapes representing area scenery,
totemic masks and wildlife.
Metal work by artist Blaine
Fillingim can be found at Copper Mountain Fountains and Artworks in
Ketchum. Courtesy photo
A Wood River Valley resident since
1997, Fillingim came to metalworking while fashioning parts for farm
equipment in the Panhandle of Texas near Lubbock. "Threshing combines
were my first pieces of work," he said in a recent interview. After
attaining some skills with shaping metals, he found work with Fountains
Unlimited, building copper water features. "These free-standing
sculptures took a lot of work, and my boss thought they were
cost-prohibitive. But I still make them.
"I had to do some research to
really find out what I was doing," he said in his west-Texas drawl. "Repousse
was used in ancient times. It was the technique used in the construction
of the Colossus of Rhodes, and more recently in the making of the Statue
Repousse, which in French
literally means push back, also has a long history in the creation of
religious iconography. Perhaps Fillingim is unique in turning this
process to landscapes. He cites the work of Wood River Valley sculptor
Eric Boyer as an influence in his recent work. Boyer shapes metal
screens by hand into realistic nudes, and is represented at galleries in
New Mexico and elsewhere.
Fillingim’s eye and hammer have
captured the landscape details of Kelley Mountain, the Pioneers, and
Bald Mountain. These features are hammered into relief with a knack for
reverse perspective, which is common to lithographers and printmakers.
Each piece is colored through oxidation processes, airbrush painting,
and then sealed with waterproof lacquer. A particularly eclectic piece
called "Mesa Verde" is a combination of cut-copper silhouetted forest,
hammered mountainscape and lighted wall fountain. A recent commission
piece for a private residence involved creating a functional fire-pit
hood in the shape of the Boulder Mountains.
In recent months, Fillingim has
fashioned a number of figurative works; from elk, deer and shining
trout, to Egyptian Pharaoh masks from his studio at 900 North Leadville
Ave., one block behind Grumpy’s Tavern. His work is on display at St.
Luke’s Hospital, Chester and Jake’s Restaurant, Zenergy at Thunder
Spring and the Coffee Grinder, all in Ketchum. His summer schedule
includes a number of shows, including Mountain Mamas in Stanley, and a
Midwest arts and crafts show in Chicago.
craftsmanship is making its way gradually into the sometimes finicky
world of fine art, albeit through the back door. He recently sold a
sculpture in the likeness of Bald Mountain hanging above the entrance to
The Coffee Grinder that will soon ship to Florida. Another, named
"Voodoo Trance" was stolen recently from the Webster Pottery building
near Lefty’s Bar.
"I renamed it ‘Voodoo Curse’ for
the benefit of whoever might have it," he said.