Saxonburg native forges mechanic skills into sculpture artistry
By Julie Martin
Published: Saturday, July 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
For Michael Bestwick, going from working on motorcycles to creating art wasn't much of a leap.
In a way, the emerging artist is able to join the two together as seamlessly as the metal sculptures that he creates, forging his impressionist sensibilities with the resourcefulness of a mechanic.
Of his creative process, he says: “As far as being a mechanic and a fabricator, I can see the same skill set coming in as when fabricating a piece of equipment.”
He is able to use many of the same tools that he used as a mechanic when creating his art, Bestwick says.
Art, however, isn't just an afterthought for the Saxonburg native and Knoch High School graduate.
Bestwick, 44, may have worked for a couple of decades as a mechanic and a truck driver, but, he says, his friends always noticed his aptitude for drawing.
When taking some time off a few years ago, he found that by focusing on art instead of autos, he was able to really find his way.
That search culminated with a community college class and work on a series of pastel paintings and drawings.
“It was my own style,” he says. “It wasn't until I took the only college class that I've ever taken where I said, ‘I guess I'm an impressionist and (my teacher) said ‘yes.' ”
Not long after, he sought inspiration and guidance at a place not far from his home in Fenelton: the Saxonburg Area Artists Co-op.
There, he discovered a knack for working with metal.
His sculptures range from larger works like an abstract owl that stands at the entrance of the co-op's gallery to flowers given as awards and even used as bridal bouquets.
He has incorporated everything from old burn barrels — from which the owl is made — to horseshoes to old tools.
“Michael's work is often a blending of blacksmithing and fine-arts sculpture,” says Sam Andrew, a director and founder of the co-op.
“I particularly like the fact that he goes to great lengths to re-use and re-purpose scrapped material and found objects.”
While found-object sculpture is not unique, according to Andrew, Bestwick's stands apart.
“It is how he crafts his sculptures, finding and using just the right objects to meld into new and interesting visual statements, giving a whole new life to “stuff” that society has long discarded on the side of the road.”
One found object has led to a project that has offered an opportunity for Bestwick to once again bring together two seemingly opposing realms in a flawless manner.
He has started creating found-object sculptures from old-fashioned horns of all types designed to pair with today's technology.
The series of sculptures is designed so a smartphone or an iPad can rest on the bell of the horn, creating what Bestwick explains is a “mechanical amplifier.”
Much like a set of speakers would, the sculpture projects sound, making whatever is playing on the electronic device louder and clearer.
The types of horns he uses have ranged from a pre-1920s automobile horn found in an old garage to a beat-up musical instrument long left behind in a high school band room.
The functional sculptures are mounted on a wooden base, which is varnished and embellished with other found objects like horseshoes and railroad spikes.
Those elements, in conjunction with the brassy tones of the horns, make for sculptures that, while both rustic and industrial, convey an overall elegance.
When it comes to the sound sculptures, Bestwick, who sold nearly every one he took to the Three Rivers Arts Festival this summer, says the response has been good.
“The people that bought them put them in their music rooms,” he says, “so they must enjoy the sound.”
Things are sounding good for Bestwick. He now works on his art full time, a pursuit that he credits the co-op with helping to make possible.
“There is no way I would have imagined I'd be a self-supporting artist,” he says. “I think that the exposure of being with other artists has been one of the most important parts of this transition I've been making.”
For more information about Bestwick, contact Saxonburg Area Artists Co-op at 412-260-5779 or email@example.com. The gallery is at 215 Main St., Saxonburg. Hours are 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Butler hires company to perform security audit of buildings, train staff
- Buffalo Township real estate taxes to rise by almost 30%
- Oakmont addresses Plum Creek flooding
- East Deer blames 13% tax increase on assessment appeal losses
- West Deer man accused of sexual contact with pre-teen ordered to trial
- Leechburg fifth-grader’s art chosen for cover of anti-drug calendar
- Valley High Touchdown Club officers clash with parents over finances
- Woman accused of assault over rap music to attend anger management classes
- Lower Burrell passes budget without raising taxes
- DA will audit Gilpin evidence
- Oakmont’s preliminary budget holds taxes steady