Making art from scrap

J enny Horstman looks at discarded pieces of metal a little differently than most people.

Where others see a pile of rusted metal fragments, Horstman sees inspiration. An old chain isn’t a series of interlocked iron, it’s a Holstein’s tail. A discarded pick ax is the crown of its head, and a coil spring from an old car makes the perfect neck.

“Broken and rusted metal fragments are beautiful,” Horstman says. “As an artist I recycle the found objects and give them a new meaning and a new life.”

Horstman pieces together old tools, metal hardware, and pieces of old farm equipment into life-size sculptures of horses, cows, and even moose.

“I’ve used everything from a bolt to a big augur,” she said. “Nothing is too small or too broken to be included in the sculpture.

“The identity of the original items disappear into the sculpture, while at the same time encouraging the observer to discover the original, familiar objects within the composition.”

Horstman’s work has been displayed at art galleries throughout the area, including the Buttondown Gallery at the Shirt Factory in Glens Falls, the North County Arts Center in Chestertown, and the Seven Sisters Gallery in North Creek.

Her work “Argos,” a sculpture of a horse’s head, won best in show at the Hudson Crossing Park Recycled Art Show last year and two of her sculptures, “Jubilees Song” and the “Headless Horseman” are currently on display outside of Walker’s Farm Store on Route 4 in and Go-Slo Inc. on Route 149 in Fort Ann.

A native of Dresden and a graduate of Whitehall High School, Horstman began welding through a program at BOCES and was immediately hooked.

“I’ve been a member of the pipe fitters’ union for 25 years and have been a professional welder for 30 years,” she said.

Horstman has worked as a welder in various roles throughout the area and spent more than a decade working in Alaska. But the work had always been more of a practical pursuit.

“I always wanted to be an artist,” she said, adding that she took art classes in high school and made some of her first sculptures during that time.

 

Career move

So about three years ago she bought an old house and, with a little help from her neighbors, built her own studio on Copeland Pond Road in Fort Ann.

Her work begins as bits of scrap metal and pieces of discarded hardware and becomes three-dimensional sculptures carefully put together like a jigsaw puzzle.

“They take months to build. All the parts have to fit together just right,” she said. “Each piece makes a line. Each piece makes a positive space for a negative space.”

She estimates each sculpture consists of hundreds of individual pieces.

Although her sculptures are made from pieces of scrap metal, she doesn’t consider herself a scrap metal sculptor.

“All the pieces I use were very important at one time. A bolt with 25 washers was important,” she said.

Her latest work is a life-size sculpture of a canal tow mule.

Horstman said she came up with the idea and won a grant through the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council.

She said the sculpture is modeled after several pictures of old canal mules she received from the Whitehall Historical Society.

The sculpture is expected to be complete later this summer and will be installed at the corner of George and Ann Streets in Fort Ann at 2 p.m. on July 21. After it has sat on display for a year, the sculpture will be sold, hopefully to a community in Washington County along the canal, she says.

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