Even if Lee Stoetzel’s wooden sculptures fail to turn your intellectual light on, make you ponder our relationship with nature and the predicament of the man-made (sadly something environmental art rarely does), it’s impossible to not be impressed by the high level of craftsmanship in his work. It’s social commentary wrapped in aesthetic perfection. And for that we dub it two shades of brilliance. We caught up with Stoetzel for a quick chat about his work, the environment and what he hopes to accomplish. Interview after the jump.
The world is already full of stuff—why design/make more? Good question. Ego probably is the reason to make more. I like to think of it as creative recycling.
What’s sustainability’s relationship to consumption? Sustainability is the answer to our over-consumption. I try really hard in my life and work to recycle, eat locally grown foods, drive a responsible car and make art that is “green”—and about being “green.” But it is an uphill battle for sure. To me this is the biggest issue.
What message are you trying to get across? There is more beauty in nature’s trash (e.g. Pecky cypress wood) than anything man could make (a Harley Davidson).
What would you like people to say about you and/or your work when you’re gone? No need to say anything—if people want to touch the works I know I have succeeded.
Which of your pieces has brought you the greatest sense of satisfaction? The VW Bus is my opus, my albatross, my life’s work (it seems) and now my most satisfying piece. The struggle, the time and the learning curve in wood bending, shaping and technique have made me really feel glad I am done with it.
How long did the VW bus take to complete? The VW took so long because the real thing was parked in the driveway. My 1971 bus killed all of my sculpture goals. The wooden bus had to live up to its 1:1 model. In other works I use small plastic models, and the expectations can be lowered.
What were your biggest challenges with these pieces? Finding the detritus they are made with. Whether degraded cypress, fractured mesquite or spalted maple—to find truly ripped up wood that is considered “trash,” but still workable, is the challenge.
You use no bought material? It’s all found/recycled? I have to pay for beautiful junk most of the time. Some (not all) mills are efficient and will charge even for low-grade woods that have been corrupted by fungus, cracking, etc. I am willing to pay for their waste as well, prior to them burning the pieces. But I need them to be on the lookout for great pieces that have character, and in order for them to be “spotters,” they charge me.
Are you working on anything new right now? I am working on some double-sized track bikes. Single speed bikes are very hip now, and I am making them double scale to try to emphasize how beautifully designed they are. Also I am working on a wood gutter filled with wooden leaves—nature’s waste is a hassle in the fall on the East Coast.
More at leestoetzel.com