James Marks’ Wire Wonders
February 12, 2014
Jesters, sprites, avian spirits, mimes, jongleurs: what do you see when you catch sight of a James Marks wire sculpture?
The evocative metal figures twisted up by Marks have multiplied across Shreveport-Bossier since the 1990s. He has established a voice in the community; the curvature of the figures he sculpts have an unmistakable personality.
Says Michael Stone, “Marks’ wire sculptures have the character of an artistic doodle but take full life in three dimensions and in actual materials. The copper wire ones in particular have a beautiful look to them and age with a wonderful patina.”
Kathryn Usher says, “Jay’s newest works really must be held in both of your hands to be appreciated. They have life movement in them.”
Marks is a burly lad with such an abundant beard that his nom de plume, Little Wire Bird, is a sure indicator of his love of irony. As such, working primarily with discarded wire and fabric is part of his artistic point. Marks creates a form of life from detritus.
Says Marks, “I have sculpted since before I could spell the word sculpture, making handmade playthings and repairing my store-bought toys with twist-ties, pipe cleaners and tinfoil. I make art as if I was building a toy, not a sculpture. The texture and feel of the object in my hands is just as important as its appearance. My largest sculptures could easily serve as toys for a giant. Likewise, my tiniest pieces could become monumental works without loosing any of their impact.”
Marks has also made his point as a teacher. “I remember Jay turning me on to wire sculpture at Renzi Center,” said artist Paul Garner, raised in Shreveport. “As a kid, he inspired me to look at objects and see possibilities beyond just their intended use or function. I’ll always appreciate his work.”
Usher remembers: “The day after the opening of Epic at artspace, I ran into a little boy in the produce section of Kroger who was making figures from twisty ties. He had been at the party at artspace the night before where Jay had shown him how to work with wire.”
For some years Marks’ wire work was street art. “I loved finding your art unexpectedly in nooks, crannies, stages and spaces downtown, remembers former Shreveporter Joanna Ballard. “His wire creations,” Ballard asserts, “are a Louisiana icon. Garner remembers finding wire sculpture “bolted to Shreveport telephone poles.”
As for why he does it, Marks responds, “I am attempting to express the hidden beauty I see everywhere. I work with the human form out of familiarity and habit, using scale and unusual framing to evoke an unexpected wonder and confused awe. My tools never leave my side; coming with me to parties, past security checkpoints, into funerals and beaches. Supplies come to me from cast-off wire at construction sites, ruined buildings, dusty back shelves in hardware stores, gifts from friends or forgotten utility closets.”
Among the honors accorded Marks recently have been a residency with acclaimed New York artist Doug Fitch in the Le Plus Belle Poubelle installation at Artspace in 2012. In 2013 he was commissioned to build a giant piece, some 12 feet at top, in Minden, La. It is called “Hope – the pathfinder.”
Currently Marks has 5 pieces on view in the Carolyn Querbes Nelson Third Meadows Museum of Art North Louisiana Triennial Competition. Check his website, too: WireWirePantsOnFire.com.
One would have to conclude that Marks is also recommendable to collectors. Currently, his pieces are affordable. Next year, who knows?