CREATIVE PEAKS: Metallic Mind

By on June 7, 2017

Artist unveils his works of metal and heat for new Asymbol show.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The idea came to him as artistic inspiration often comes, unexpectedly, naturally and fluidly.

First Tai Williams saw a wave cresting over and breaking. Then he thought of the ravens he’s always chasing while snowboarding in the mountains. He pictured wings of a raven spread and the pattern it made in the air. He combined it with the wave and from the raven form he drew an owl. He forged his vision with metal and heat and created “Reverent,” a sculpture about eight feet long, three feet deep and two feet tall. It is the centerpiece of Williams’ show “A Thousand Steps,” which opens at Asymbol Gallery Thursday, June 8.

The show features seven of Williams’ metal sculptures, one wood piece and three concept drawings used to guide his sculpture creations. The show doesn’t have a theme. It is instead a representation of his art evolution that began as a child with drawing, morphed to wood and now is based in metal, he said.

The show title is a nod to the journey he’s taken to arrive as an artist with a gallery show.

“To me it pretty much means I began down this road of working with metal and being artistic naturally, but it wasn’t until recently that I really focused on taking deliberate steps,” he said. “It’s now opening a whole new journey. It’s about how if you want to do something, you put your head down and do it one step at a time.”

Williams grew up in a family that appreciated art. His mother was a potter, his grandmother a painter. He started drawing and painting so young he doesn’t remember exactly when, just that it was always part of his life.

For more than 20 years, Williams worked in construction and created art from wood as a hobby. He was a general contractor in Oregon working on high-end custom homes in 2008 when the economic recession hit. He took another job at a suspension shop working on hot rods. His grandfather was a machinist so he’d worked with metal, playing around in his shop. Williams was also named after a welder his mother read about in a New York Times article. Moving to welding work was a natural, and an almost pre-destined transition.

Williams took work in an oil patch as a pipe fitter, but went back to school to get his welding certifications. Whenever he had spare time he collected scrap metal and started creating art from it.

“The biggest difference is metal has a really primal, caveman energy to it because you are working very directly with fire— straight-up 4,000-degree flames,” he said. “It is this pretty cool, raw, very visceral power.”

Yet the finished product can be refined, soft, almost fragile, he said.

Williams was in school when he saw an Avalon7 logo with a giant raven in the center on social media. He messaged founder/pro-snowboarder Rob Kingwill to see if he could use it as inspiration for a three-dimensional fine art project he needed to create for a welding class. His connection with Kingwill led to other Jackson connections and about three years ago Williams moved to Jackson Hole, a step that pushed and inspired him artistically.

Williams’ show is eclectic, like his inspiration.

“I find inspiration everywhere,” he said. “Most of my inspiration comes from powerful emotional experiences whether they are in nature or with a person.”

One sculpture depicts a phoenix. It includes video footage showing the process of foraging the three-foot tall bird. He also created a giant sea turtle with a two-foot wide shell that is also a huge sun. Then there’s a small eight-inch raven that many people see as an owl.

“I try to create lines and basically a negative space drawing in my work,” he said. “If you look at it from different angles and aspects, everyone finds something different in it. I like seeing people’s reaction to it and the spectrum of what people see.”

Williams’ show will be up during the second Midtown Throw Down from 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 10. The block party on the corner of Scott and Alpine Lane will feature live music, pop-up art shops, food trucks, face painting and giveaways. It’s also a perfect chance to check out the show. PJH

A Thousand Steps: Metal Sculptures by Tai Williams at Asymbol Gallery. Show opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 8 and is on display through June 24.

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