Anthony forms a dragon fly in copper using a plasma torch
Photography by: Mark D McKinley

(November, 2002) - I first visited the the Copper Garden in 2001.  Anthony May is an artist that breaths life into sheets of copper, copper tubing, and even copper wire.  He transforms their possibilities into imaginative images of art.  He's the owner of the Copper Garden.  His combination retail store/studio features a landscaped outside garden enclosed by an artistic copper fence, and an impressive showroom.

Inside the Copper Garden, Anthony's talents are showcased in a pleasant atmosphere that intrigues the eyes, and inspires the inner gardener in all of us.  He's an artist that has staked a claim in the competitive world of small business by producing original copper art designs.

    - Mark D McKinley     [Mark's Online Graphics Site]

The Interview  What inspired your interest in artistic expression through copper?

Anthony May:  This question could have many answers.  I think we as humans go through life looking for satisfaction and well being within ourselves.  Rarely do we satisfy ourselves when we only please one of our five senses or only one emotion.  When I first worked with copper in an art form I had no idea that it would turn out to be my life work.  However the first arbor I made was for my mother-in-law. She said, "Your dad is a plumber, make me a copper arbor."

So I called my dad over to the house and we, together, made the arbor she wanted.  After I was finished, I was very pleased with the work but was sad that the project was over.  The combination of working with my dad, and having a finished product satisfied me in a very calming way.  So, I made a different design, and then another.  Since I have always been a gardener, I knew how a trellis or arbor should be made to best grow vines and would make designs that would work well.  I realized that sight, touch and even the sounds of hammering and brazing made me feel great.  Then I decided that I would leave government service to make art with copper my living.  You often add unusual accents, even textures, to your sculptures.  Without divulging techniques uniquely developed by you, how do you achieve some of the colors and finishing touches you add to your pieces?

Anthony May:  Part of the pleasure of art is not having only one focus for the eye.  I use the texture and color to keep the eye moving and sometimes to intentionally move the eye to a particular area of a garden.  Being self taught, I experiment with different hammers, different subsurface and several different kinds of heat.  I use low heat to get browns and yellows.  To get reds and pinks I use high heat with a special gas added to my fuel.  These colors are then a part of the copper and not just a topical coating.  Since all metals have a way they deteriorate, I use copper's break down to my advantage.  Steel will rust, copper will patina. What is different about copper's breakdown is, it becomes a protection to the copper under the patina.  Rust on steel continues to eat away.  You can use acids, salts, and other chemicals to get different colors. I've always been intrigued, and inspired, by the art of M.C. Escher. I find his combination of architecture, mathematics, and the bending of reality, fascinating! What artist inspires you the most, and why?

Anthony May:  Frank Lloyd Wright has had the biggest influence on my work.  I have always thought that his simple designs of lines and circles shows us that it does not have to be complicated to be great.  But even with his simplicity he always gave a twist to make you say, "Why didn't I think of that."  He used nature for his advantage in design.  He ran a creek under a house in PA.  Who else would have done that?  Since most of my work is used outside, I too try to use nature to make everything flow. You recently spoke at the Frankfort Art Guild.  How can members of the art guild, or other art related organizations, best support the betterment of quality artistic expression?

Anthony May:  Art is very similar no matter what method you use to reach the end result.  You look to please yourself, and hope that it pleases others.  While most of the Frankfort Art Guild uses paint and canvas, I was able to speak about eye movement and texture.  Sometimes another artist can say one small thing that opens a window for you in your work. If you had to describe your artwork by definition of music, what music category best identifies with your art, and why?

Anthony May:  Without a doubt I would say classical.  On one level I would say the reason most of us garden is for relaxation.  What is more relaxing in musical terms than classical.  Seeing a rose grow up over an arbor, or a morning glory growing up a trellis, will put you in the same mood.  On a different level I see copper as a material that has been used for 1000's of years in jewelry, buildings, and art, now it is used in the garden also.  What better music would describe a well used metal.  At this point in your life, what dream would you like to see become a reality ten years from now?

Anthony May:  The order I put things in my life are God, family, and then art/business.  Only speaking of the latter, I would hope that people still find my work desirable.  With each year, I explore a new method of working copper.  My desire of work does not always coincide with what people want.  I hope that I can walk that thin line of art and marketing.  My dream now is to make a living for my family and have fun doing it.  Not many people get to live out a dream, I feel very blessed to be able to do so.  If ten years from now, I am doing the same, I will be very satisfied with life. I find the ponder that goes into an interview both interesting and challenging. Consider that the questions do not know the answers.

Let's remove the interviewer and the artist for a moment and contemplate the following rhetorical thought.  When all is said and done, was it the question or the answer that met the real challenge?

With that thought in mind, when you finish an unusual sculpture that's been especially challenging to you, has the artist won?  Or has the metal equally met that challenge by allowing the artist to shape their inspiration into perfection?

Anthony May:  We can champion over victories, but each victory is only temporary.  Life always has another challenge.  Art is no different.  Sure, the metal bends, and this time it bends enough.  Next time, you want it to bend even more.  But everything has its own breaking point.  I look at your question, and can only answer it with...  The metal only allows the artist to make its new shape. I wish you all the best in what the future holds for you and your family.

Anthony May:  Thank you.

(C) 2002 Mark's Online Graphics Site


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