Eric Strauss, Man of Steel

Eric Strauss, Man of Steel

How about checking out the Booth Western Art Museum for your next staycation?

Artist Eric Strauss works on “Bomby Bomby Night: A Ukrainian Garden.”
Artist Eric Strauss works on “Bomby Bomby Night: A Ukrainian Garden.”

Eric Strauss, who grew up in Atlanta, creates sculptures in his studio in Ellijay, Ga., using reclaimed, forged and fabricated steel.

After an apprenticeship with Carolyn Montague, a well-known sculptor, Strauss bought all her stainless steel. Montague was Fay Gold’s leading local artist, and Strauss had his first sold out exhibition at the Fay Gold Gallery in Atlanta.

“It was at the family horse farm that I merged contemporary fine art sculpture with the traditional blacksmith techniques and tooling,” Strauss said.

Eric Strauss sculpted this piece for the current Booth Western Art exhibit.

Working with this curved and kind of corkscrew pieces of metal, Strauss began to create stainless horses, organic with curved lines. A large horse, Lightning, is in the Booth Museum’s permanent collection.

Strauss became an assemblage sculptor, using a loose concept and all the parts.

Working with stainless steel, bronze and copper, Strauss opened his shop in Ellijay in the late 1980s, creating metal horses.

“After building four monumental-sized horses, Elton John bought my first horse in 1993,” he said. “My new botanical works are an accumulation of almost 40 years of creating metal sculptures and working with blast furnaces, forges, and kilns. I also have used wood heat in my studio and house for the past 30 years. Looks like I’m still playing with fire. I just replaced the army men and furnaces with forges, power hammers and presses.”

Strauss continued about some of his more inspiring works of art.

“The Sunflowers were inspired by a combination of my favorite plant to grow every year. Sunflowers are also a symbolic representation of Ukraine. It had been 29 years since I almost blew myself up building Bosnian Garden, and when I heard the Russians were taking mobile crematoriums into battle, the memories etched in my brain of the Holocaust, came to mind. I knew I had to build a Ukrainian Garden.”

Strauss’s son and his friend shot the tailgate of his old truck six years earlier and Strauss remarked at the time that he was going to make a work of art with it one day.

Artist Eric Strauss, hard at work in his studio.

“I never imagined it would be depicting the current war in Ukraine and be in an exhibit in a world class Western art museum. The tailgate represents what you see in the news: the horrors and destruction of war. Contrasting it with giant sunflowers, I wanted the viewer to see the first-hand reality of war.”

The sculpture was created from reclaimed, forged, and fabricated metal, without patterns and detailed drawings. Instead, Strauss used his “hands, heart, soul and the fury of fire and pieces of metal at hand.”

“As an artist, I was presented with a great platform to express my opinions and beliefs and try to engage people into thinking about negotiations and peace, not war and conflict. Peace is a powerful thing, and perhaps world leaders need to camp out in a city blown to dust, and experience the death, smell, and destruction of cities, countries, and continents. I do not want my next sculptures to be China Garden, American Garden, or any other place on Earth.”

The exhibition, “Many Metals, Many Fires: Strauss, Ivy, Rogers,” is at the Booth Western Art Museum through Aug. 27.

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