By Eric Lundin,
If you look at a piece of artwork or a collection of pieces long enough, you’ll learn a little about he artist. You might learn about a social perspective or a political position, and you’ll learn a
bit about his technique. Some artists revel in this,
but some artists try to remove as much of themselves as possible from their work. At the height
of his popularity, Jackson Pollock abandoned the
style that made him famous, and toward the end
of his career, he stopped giving titles to his paintings and merely numbered them. This sort of
thing forces the viewer to take a little extra time
and look a little deeper. If the work is truly inspirational, the viewer goes beyond wondering what
the artist was thinking and looks inward to find
meaning in the work.
This is what Roy Mackey strives to achieve.
130 Percent of Roy
Mackey learned metalworking by buying old cars,
doing body work to fix them up, and selling them.
Eventually he learned to do the paint work, and
along the way he developed an appreciation for
cutting, shaping, and finishing steel.
In his free time he took up drawing, mainly faces, and realized that a face could be rendered as a
large collection of flat surfaces. Mackey combined
his passion for metals with his inspiration to create
faces and tried his hand at making one from metal.
He liked the outcome and was hooked.
Over the years projects and jobs came and went,
and Mackey noticed a frustrating dichotomy. When
he had a full-time job he had plenty of money for
tools and materials but no time for metalworking;
when he had a part-time job, he had plenty of time
but little money. A near-fatal motorcycle accident
made Mackey realize that life was too short to mess
around with a series of jobs that didn’t make him
happy, and he became a full-time artist.
A recent project, one he started with more than
two decades of artwork under his belt, is “Naked
Man,” a 3-D self-portrait in sheet metal. He used
small pieces of 20-gauge steel cut from sheet and
shaped by hand. The result isn’t just a 130 percent-
sized replica of Mackey in midstride; it’s a decep-
tively formed, perfectly balanced, self-supporting
“Most people think I hammered the pieces, but
I didn’t—just bent them by hand,” Mackey said. “It
doesn’t have an armature in the center for support
or ballast in the feet for stability or anything like
that. When you look at it, you see everything. It’s
completely hollow. It’s pretty lightweight and easy
to move, yet it’s also well-balanced and stable.”
The Nail Gets Even
Like many artisans, he doesn’t just use tools. He
loves tools. He relies heavily on an eclectic collection of antique and vintage tools he has collected
over the years.
Tools are such a big part of Mackey’s life that
sometimes he sees the world through a tool’s per-
spective. A hammer—forged, sturdy, and massive—
puts a nail where the carpenter wants it, and the
nail doesn’t resist. Mackey wondered what would
happen if the nail had the upper hand, at least
once. The result is “Revenge,” a hammer that ap-
pears to be pierced by a nail and bleeding. Mackey
liked the result, and a series was born. One has two
faces and four claws. Another appears to have had
its face split by the nail’s impact. One is combined
with a wire brush, which appears to be a Mohawk.
“I made one that has a small towing hook built
into it,” Mackey said. “My brother put it on display
in his auto parts shop, and once in a while a tow-truck driver sees it and asks what it is, thinking it’s a
real tool, but he can’t figure out what it’s for.”
An Introspective Perspective
The bewildered expressions make the tow-hook
hammer worthwhile, but they also reveal how
Mackey views his work.
“If you held it in your hand, and you swung it
side to side a bit to make the hook rotate back and
forth on its swivel, you’d wonder what it was for,”
Mackey said. “It looks like a real tool, and nobody
would expect that someone would spend all this
time and effort to make something so useless. In
our society, you have to have a reason to do things,
and everything follows a logical sequence, and everything has to have an order. When you finally realize that it’s really nothing, you see that it’s really
an intriguing piece, and your mind stops trying to
figure out what it is. It quiets the mind a bit.”
Roy Mackey, #108-1701 Powell St., Vancouver, BC
V5L 5C9, Canada, 604-269-3500, www.flaming
Eric Lundin, contributing editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
Art for art’s sake
Sculptor relies on viewer to interpret sculptures, find meaning in art
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“Naked Man”, left, approximately 8 feet tall, is a self-portrait
of metal sculptor Roy Mackey, right. Rather than work from
a drawing, he based the sculpture on an immense number
of measurements of his body’s dimensions.
“Revenge” (left) was Mackey’s first modified hammer. This led to a series of hammers, many of which have modifications
that are deliberately useless. Two of the other hammers in the series, “Sweater” (middle) and “Double Header” (right),
make the point. A bank in downtown Vancouver had a collection of Mackey’s pieces similar to these in its art showcase,
and the building manager later confided in Mackey that in his 15 years at the bank, he had never seen so many people
stop and linger to look at the artwork.