Adam Bodine

StudioConstructing Beauty

Written by Brett Levine

Photo by Jerry Siegel


For Adam Bodine, sculpture is not just about compiling a group of disparate objects into a cohesive whole. “I’ve always been able to build,” he says. He’s standing in a room filled predominantly with pieces almost inconceivable in their theatricality, scale, and…humor. “I used to feel that my biggest challenge,” he continues, “was that I hadn’t read a lot of art theory. So I studied in part to continue working on content and resolution.” Despite Bodine’s aw-shucks mannerisms and flannel shirt, his trajectory took him from the Alabama School of Fine Arts to the studio art program at UAB and then on to an MFA at the University of Georgia. There, as he describes it, his work became both more “resolved” and more “fun.” 

What characterizes Bodine’s works is his reliance on salvaged materials. “I start every piece by seeing what I already have,” he says. “I collect materials all the time, particularly wood and metal.” These scavenging tendencies can have some unintended consequences. “I saw an ad on Craigslist that said, ‘free wood if you come get it.’ It was a deck that was 80 feet long and 14 feet wide, but it was literally hanging off the side of Red Mountain. The driveway was so steep I couldn’t get my truck up it.” These previously thrown-away materials are what form the foundation of some beautiful works. “The Stone The Builder Refused,” for example, is best described as a redneck Trojan horse, a sort of bulbous Kiwi-shaped blob sitting on what looks like a hand-propelled flat rail cart. Bodine laughs at this description. “They used to call me ‘redneck’ at Georgia,” he admits, “because my house was always surrounded by all these materials.”

What Bodine does is tease an intimate yet universal story out of each of his works. “I have a child now, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the role I am supposed to play as a father. When I was a kid, my dad would take me fishing near the Miller Steam Plant. I wasn’t so interested in fishing, but I loved all the amazing equipment that was laying around,” he remembers. Those memories form the foundation of the enormous work “I Never Cared Much for Fishing,” a piece that looks as if it is one step removed from a coal mine. “I think that sometimes as artists we can take ourselves too seriously. So now everything I make is humorous,” he says. “It might be a dark humor, but it always has that element.”

One of the other issues Bodine is always exploring is the way his works convey meaning. “Both as a teacher and a father I am hyper-aware of how I am passing on information,” he explains. “I’m not just interested in thinking about what I pass on, but I’m also interested in thinking about the various ways I pass information and ideas on.”

This recognition of the multiple roles of art is something that characterizes Adam Bodine. Far more comfortable letting his works speak for themselves than he is speaking for them, he is slowly transforming into an artist whose creativity, conceptualism, and engagement is manifest in complex forms, subtle ideas, and undeniable humor. The biggest challenge he says he faces is understanding which of his always-expanding ideas he wants to explore. “One of the struggles any artist faces is knowing what’s worth pursuing,” he says. “I want to make sure all my works share the same level of conceptual and intellectual challenge at the same time that they keep pushing me to develop my formal artistic skills.

“To me, it is really just about seeing what’s beautiful around you,” he says. “If someone says they don’t like sculpture, just tell them to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and look up.”

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