Sculptor Steve Tobin debuts his first small-scale sculptures at Karats
The intersection of science, nature and art has always intrigued noted artist Steve Tobin. You can see it in his iconic monumental sculpture, “Trinity Root,” the first memorial commemorating the World Trade Center attack on September 11. It’s there in his show installed beside the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, which included termite-mound castings, a metal casting of the root system of a tree and a sculpture fashioned from bone marrow; it’s also there in his installation of artificial caves with “totemic” glass sculptures and a waterfall of glass in Punkaharju, Finland. Tobin has always thought “big.”
In his current show at Karats in Vail Village, Tobin has created small, sculptural bird’s nests that you can hold in your hand. He’s also created large nest sculptures — not for this exhibition, however. “I’ve been working with nature-based themes my whole life,” mused Tobin. “Glass, bronze, steel, ceramic, wood — and I’m known for very large pieces. I’m very excited about these because I can hold them in the palm of my hand — and I love the small scale.”
Tobin graduated from Tulane in 1979 with a BS in Theoretical Mathematics and has always been intrigued by the intersection of science and art. Captivated by objects, architectural structures and the power and patterns of nature, these small nests mirror Tobin’s fascination. A far cry from the monumental pieces for which he is famous, including large nests in cast bronze twigs or welded steel.
“I’ve been pushing the bronze technique,” explained Tobin, “so these are very light and lacey as opposed to a normal bronze which is a smooth skin. These are like real bird’s nests.” The beginning of life.
Tobin doesn’t have a favorite medium. “I like the ideas,” he said. “So the ideas are my medium. I choose appropriate materials, in this case, the eggs are mirror-polished, either steel or bronze. When you look at the eggs you see yourself reflected in the egg. So, the viewer is in the egg, in the nest gestating. It’s like an existential transformation. Obviously, we don’t come from a bird’s nest, but it puts us in the egg and in the nest and that’s a lot of fun to change positions that way.”
Certainly this is a change for Tobin, so well-known for his large-scale pieces. However, he is intrigued with the small scale of this exhibition. “I’m also making nests large enough for you to get inside and sit looking at the egg,” he said.
The exhibition at Karats is the first showing of the small nests.
“They’re very new and Dan (Telleen) and I have been friends for many years. And that’s why I’m debuting my nests in his gallery,” Tobin explained.