What comes to mind when you think of outer space exploration? Astronauts and probes launched into space by rockets? Astronomers with telescopes peering into the night? If you had to free associate a material with these endeavors, most likely you’d pick cool, gleaming metal or perhaps the glass of lenses and control screens. Wood might seem an unlikely medium to associate with journeys into the cosmos, but artisan Jim Sloane of 3DWoodies can convey space and movement masterfully in custom fine art made from combinations of reclaimed scrap wood from cabinet shop dumpsters and fine hardwoods. Jim has created a series of wood wall hangings that are featured in his CustomMade portfolio that goes boldly into the remote past, present, and future of our galaxy.
Exploring outer space is a natural subject for an artist who loves to break away from the gravity of restrictions. Jim explains:
Most of my new work is about the cosmos. I am fascinated by the flood of information we now have about our universe and its randomness and variety. This theme suits my style very well. I don't like rules and structure. I like freedom of expression and let it fly when I am doing the art pieces. You will frequently see pieces of mine with “outlying” structures, borders crossed and excursions “outside the lines.”
Two of his early works help explain his artistic approach.
“The Original” is Jim’s first piece, created in 1975-1976 from rescued leftover moulding, including pieces from a remodel of the famous L’Hermitage hotel in Beverly Hills. Although he “stayed ‘in the lines’ on this one,” he also broke out into three dimensions with this piece, thanks to the suggestion of his mentor, Ken Norkus. Jim writes:
I started out making it like a puzzle at the bottom, cutting pieces and fitting them together. Ken came out to see what I was doing, went to the radial arm saw, cut a closet full round into pieces of unequal length, placed them on the background board and said, “what about like that?” And it liberated me to step back and see this in a new way. I opened up and let it flow!
Another early piece reveals a long-standing desire to slip the surly bonds of earth. In 1977, Jim recalls:
During the time that “Star Wars” came out, I made an interpretation of the X-wing fighters flying down the “Death Star” alley to launch their Proton Torpedoes and destroy the evil force behind Darth Vader. It sold immediately!
In his universe series, the sensations of free movement and play in space take center stage.
Appropriately enough, Jim’s first outer space piece was the “Big Bang.” A representation of the start of the known universe and its expansion, this work is made of wood from a variety of sources: black walnut, cherry veneers, dowel rods, and mouldings. The artist explains how he captures this explosive, primeval event:
From the middle, wood pieces are cut at 60 degrees. As you move away from the center, pieces are cut at 45 degrees. Then pieces ringing the center area are cut at 30 degrees to show “expansion,” movement or “growing out.”
Over the course of 14.5 billion years, give or take, we arrive at Growth of the Universe. Arranged like cities or way stations along a road, each node representing the universe at a particular time is larger and more complex than the previous one.
The Current Universe is made from recycled broom handles and dowels as well as pieces of purpleheart, redwood, pine, and costume jewelry.
Fast forward 4.5 billion years: our galactic neck of the woods, the Milky Way, will likely collide with the Andromeda galaxy. Jim has visualized this event in his “Collision of Andromeda and the Milky Way.” Painted elliptical cherry plywood boards represent the merging galactic planes. Stars, quasars, and other bodies are presented by a variety of woods and costume jewelry.
If you have a project you’d like Jim to bring to life, contact him and discuss your ideas. Share your inspirations with him, anything from color and shapes to a full-blown concept, and he’ll include them in a unique commissioned custom artwork for your home.