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Front Window Spotlight: Bob Prowda and Catherine Thompson

Our front window display for June features artists Bob Prowda and Catherine Thompson! Bob creates intricate metal sculptures for outdoor art, and serves as our Board President Catherine is one of our gallery artists and creates exquisitely detailed mosaic pieces. This is our first Front Window Spotlight with an artist couple. Their work will occupy the front window until June 25th. We also carry a full body of Catherine’s work in our retail gallery, and several of Bob’s sculptures are placed throughout the gallery as part of our “For the Love of the Garden” show.

Bob, how did you get started in metalworking?

I started in metalworking about 8 years ago and had no previous experience.  I began working in a combination of wood and wire rope then moved to making metal birds and other creatures when Catherine bought me a welder for Christmas.

You create work that is representative of creatures found in nature and also abstract pieces. Where do you find inspiration for your abstract work?

The inspiration comes from many sources. In several cases, people have given me scrap pieces of metal and it sits around outside the garage until inspiration strikes. Sometimes inspiration waits a year.  Someone once gave me about 2,000 pieces of what are called “shoes” by some in the concrete construction world.  They became the first towers I built.  My most recent towers were inspired by various office and hotel buildings in Dubai.

What’s something you’re experimenting with in the studio?

My ‘experiments’ are typically personal challenges, to see if I can make something in metal that is, in life, very un-metal like. Other times it’s a challenge from Catherine, like a 6-foot salmon to fit over the fireplace. or a 5-foot spider, just because.

 

Catherine, your mosaic work is a great match for the delicate features of birds. Have you also drawn from other imagery?

I did a few pieces with flowers, abstracts, vines, etc. and just didn’t really find inspiration. On a trip to Italy with Bob, I saw portraits from the Renaissance period that were in profile, rather rigid poses with a neutral expression. Somewhere in my mind, I thought it would be interesting if those were birds instead of people. Since birds have always been a love of mine, it seemed like a natural fit.

How has your work evolved from the days of your first mosaics?

I made my first mosaic when I was in the second grade. I still have it, actually. It’s of a tiger moving slowly through the jungle, but to the casual observer it appears to be a few blobs of orange glass surrounded by a few blobs of green glass. My mother is an artist, and at the time she was making a mosaic table. If my mom painted, I painted. If mom was making pottery, I was making pottery. So, we made mosaics. 28 years later, I made my second mosaic. More successful than the first, but still far from what I wanted it to be. Over time, my tile pieces have gotten much smaller and the incorporation of crystals and semi-precious stones has given me more options and an added level of dimension to my work.

What’s something you’re experimenting with in the studio?

I’m always working with glass tiles to figure out how to get certain colors to come together. Some birds have beautiful, subtle colors that are not available in the type of glass I use, so it’s a constant challenge to work with available colors and proximity to try and achieve some of those colors. I’ve had to scrap quite a few pieces because I just couldn’t get the color I wanted.

Do you ever critique each other’s work?

We don’t critique so much as help work out problems. It always helps to have another pair of eyes.

When you met, did you know you were both artists or did one of you lead the other on a journey of creativity?

I (Catherine) have always made art. I have a BFA and an MA, and had a career as a graphic designer/art director. Bob had never made art, but always had an interest. We were talking one day and I threw out the usual question: “If you could do anything at all for a career, no limitations, what would it be?” Bob replied that he would want to make sculpture, using steel, wood or both. So, we made it a priority. He took over the garage, we bought a welder, a pile of metal, and off he went.

He has a natural ability to create and design. I am always amazed at what he comes up with, and where his vision leads him. Dr. Seuss meets Tim Burton, I always say. His pieces are warm, weird and beautiful, and I love having a yard full of them!

Have you ever collaborated on work?

Our work doesn’t really seem to lend itself to collaboration, and our work styles are dramatically different. To date, we’ve each  been quite content to work on our own with occasional input from the other, but there could come a time when one of us has a flash of brilliance and a collaboration is born.

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Permanent link to this article: http://arteast.org/2017/06/front-window-bob-prowda-catherine-thompson/