For sculptor Michael Finch, it started with duct tape.
About a decade ago, it was trendy to make wallets and purses out of duct tape. But, while others were caught up in the craze of making smaller things out of the versatile adhesive, the then 10-year-old Finch saw something else, something bigger.
“I saw it and I’m like, ‘hmmm,’ I wonder what giant things I can make out of this material,” Finch said.
Now 20, Finch has indeed gone bigger. He’s graduated from duct tape to steel and regularly makes sculptures that are several feet tall.
Finch currently has a sculpture on display as part of the Eden Prairie Rotating Art Series. The piece is called Guardian 2. A striped tiger that’s about four feet tall, Guardian 2 is on display in front of the Eden Prairie Art Center and will be there for at least a year.
Constantly creating, always learning
So, how does someone get to where Finch is right now? By working like a shark.
The up-and-coming artist’s work has been displayed at venues such as the Franconia Sculpture Park. Currently, Finch’s work is part of a gallery show at Fairbault’s Paradise Center for the Arts.
“Sometimes I talk about myself like a shark,” Finch said with a laugh. “Where if a shark stops swimming it will die off. I almost have that similar instinct where I’m the type of person that always needs something going on, especially that creative outlet.”
Finch has taken that mentality and his penchant for thinking big to Hamline University in St. Paul, where he will be a senior in the fall. There, he is mentored by Allison Baker, his sculpture professor.
“Her work is very similar (to mine) in terms of its playful energy and very saturated colors,” Finch said.
Finch also talked about being influenced by the contemporary art movement of enlarging random objects. It makes sense, considering he was a kid who wanted bizarre toys as a kid, like a giant sock. “Just enlarged objects or super cartoony three-dimensional forms,” he said.
Those aesthetics are ever-present in his work, and Finch said he chose those styles deliberately.
“I really wanted a positive outcome, because a lot of art can be really heavy, or (people) can be just kind of like, ‘Oh, it’s there,’ and that’s all that people think of it,” he said.
“I want what I make to have an emotional value, whether it makes you really happy, or it makes you excited to come and see it, or quizzical, like, ‘What is that doing there?”
Imparting knowledge, planning for the future
Finch tries to do that with pieces like Good Morning!, a nine-foot tall rubber chicken that was the first solo public sculpture he completed. He called the piece “very joyful,” and said that many people have complimented it. It’s currently on display in an augmented reality format in a sculpture forest in Washington state. The physical sculpture sits in a back parking lot at Hamline.
Finch also works to bring the love of art to kids. He’s in his third summer working at Eden Prairie Art Center, spending most of his time teaching glass and clay classes.
“I like the environment, I like the people, I like being able to teach,” he said. “A lot of the kids that come through are really passionate and motivated, too.”
As for what the future holds for Michael Finch the artist, that is something about which he constantly thinks — “the looming cloud,” he called it with a chuckle.
Baker encouraged Finch to apply for grants a couple of years ago and buy his own equipment, so he’s been doing that.
“There’s some truth to the stereotype of the starving artist, but also, there’s a lot of hard work that can go in where that won’t happen,” he said. “I see myself hopefully being self-sufficient and doing things where I just get to make, and I can make money off of that.”
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