Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Artwerk, Steve style September 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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MY FRIEND STEVE, married to my friend Jackie, is an artist. Oh, he may not term himself as such and he prefers you call his creations artwerk rather than artwork. Seems more masculine, this bulk of a guy claims.

Conduit and pipes transformed into art for placement on Steve's wooded acreage.

Conduit, pipes and metal transformed into art for placement on Steve’s wooded acreage.

But I am 100 percent certain that the art Steve crafts from what many would term junk qualifies him as a bonafide artist. He’s even dumpster dived for art materials and salvaged items from scrap piles.

Circles and spirals appear often in Steve's art.

Circles and spirals appear often in Steve’s art.

For now this one-time welder pursues his art passion as a hobby. I’m convinced he could sell his pieces or create works on commission and have suggested such to him. He’s already selected a business name—Big “N” Ugly’s Iron Werks. Catchy. But Steve is certainly not ugly. If I remember correctly, the name relates to some crazy story from his past.

Discarded plumbing provides materials for art in a flower garden.

Discarded plumbing provides materials for art in a flower garden.

Jackie wishes this flowerbed faucet was functional.

Jackie wishes this flowerbed faucet art was functional.

Oversized chimes crafted from discarded clothing racks (etc.) and strung high in a tree.

Oversized chimes crafted from discarded clothing racks (etc.) and strung high in a tree.

He’s transformed clothing racks, tape measures, a springform pan, old faucets, a grater, conduit and more into visual, and sometimes functional, art. The pieces are strategically placed on the couple’s wooded creekside property just off a quiet county road northeast of Medford. I love their land and many times have wished aloud that I desire to retreat here until all stress has exited my life.

Conduit turned art.

Conduit turned art.

A portable outdoor functioning sink created with old faucets, springform pan, plastic pipes and more.

A portable outdoor functioning sink created with old faucets, springform pan, plastic pipes and more.

Fence art.

Fence art.

On a recent steamy summer Sunday afternoon, Steve and Jackie invited my husband and me to tour their outdoor sculpture garden featuring Steve’s vast collection of original art.

The close-up spirals on one of Steve's pieces.

The close-up spirals on one of Steve’s pieces.

A full view of the same piece above and one of the bridges Steve built.

A full view of the same piece above and one of the bridges Steve built.

Even old tape measures are worked into his art.

Even old tape measures are worked into his art.

To view his pieces is to wonder how he can possibly come up with ideas to twist and shape and bend and sculpt cast-offs into abstract art that grabs your attention for its uniqueness, cleverness and artsy appeal.

A practical use for an otherwise useless washer agitator, repurposed as a beverage holder.

A practical use for an otherwise useless washer agitator, repurposed as a beverage holder.

Boat seats repurposed as a seating area on a retaining wall.

Boat seats repurposed as a seating area on a retaining wall.

Who thinks of using a vintage meat grinder for art, then suspending it in a tree? Steve.

Who thinks of using a vintage grinder for art, then suspending it in a tree? Steve.

Talk to Steve about his artwerk and you hear his unbridled enthusiasm. This is what he’s meant to do. To create. Artwerk.

Steve has built several of these sheds, this one graced with some of the art he's crafted.

Steve has built several of these sheds, this one graced with some of the art he’s crafted.

Seriously, how does one shape barbed wire into a ball?

Seriously, how does one shape barbed wire into a ball?

A snippet of an art piece dangling high in the trees.

A snippet of an art piece dangling high in the trees.

FYI: If you are interested in purchasing Steve’s art or having him create a piece on commission, let me know via a comment here or in an email (see my “about” page). I’m tapping Steve’s creative brain about a metal headboard from my childhood. Believe me, he can turn anything into art. Anything.

Steve did not want a photo of himself published, which is why you’re not seeing one here. I have one, but…I will honor his request.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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The challenges of winter photography & a new perspective on art January 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:15 AM
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FOR A BLOGGER like me who incorporates so many photos into her posts, blogging in winter in Minnesota presents special challenges, the primary obstacle being the weather.

Simply put, I don’t like freezing my fingers, navigating icy surfaces, dodging snowflakes or battling frigid winds to get a photo. And when you live in Minnesota, you just can’t escape the cold, ice, snow and wind, especially not this week.

Yesterday I glanced outside to see a fresh dusting of snow sparkling like fairy dust in an enchanting scene. For a moment, as I slipped half my body outside to retrieve the morning paper, I considered bundling up to photograph the magic. But thoughts did not transform into action.

Later, though, after lunch, that fairy dust still danced in my brain so I zipped my fleece and stepped onto the patio to photograph the snow. I didn’t expect fantastic results; heck, the results rated as immediately deletable:

The original sparkling snow image, unedited except for down-sizing.

The original sparkling snow image, unedited except for down-sizing.

But then I worked my magic, trying several editing tools—sparkle effect, colorizing, cartoonifying and changing the contrast—to transform a blah image into an abstract work of art:

Sparkling snow in my backyard transformed into abstract art with photo editing tools.

Sparkling snow in my backyard transformed into abstract art with photo editing tools.

What’s really interesting about this entire process is that I’ve never been a fan of abstract art. I’ve always been inclined to view an abstract work and then blurt, “I could do that” or “That looks like the work of a kindergartner.”

I doubt I’ll ever quite stop thinking that.

But, through this digital editing process, I’ve discovered a part of me appreciates abstract photo art and the process of creating it. Temporary brain freeze perhaps?

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS on cold climate photography (as in Minnesota cold), abstract art, digital photo editing or anything along that line? (And don’t feel you have to like my abstract photo art.)

I prefer to shoot winter photos from the comfort of a building or a vehicle, as evidenced in these images I shot in March 2012:

I converted this image to black-and-white and upped the brightness. This was shot on the Minnesota Highway 19 curve just north of Vesta, my southwestern Minnesota hometown.

I converted this image to black-and-white and upped the brightness. This was shot on the Minnesota Highway 19 curve just north of Vesta, my southwestern Minnesota hometown.

I used the same photo editing techniques on this scene captured on the same date just south of Echo, which would be north of Vesta. We were on our way to church.

I used the same photo editing techniques on this scene captured on the same date just south of Echo, which would be north of Vesta. We were on our way to church.

The day prior, en route to Vesta, I photographed this barn between New Ulm and Morgan.

The day prior, en route to Vesta, I photographed this farmyard between New Ulm and Morgan.

To the east, also en route to my hometown, I photographed this rural scene just west of Waterville along Minnesota Highway 60.

To the east, also en route to my hometown, I photographed this rural scene just west of Waterville along Minnesota Highway 60.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling