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Unbending Michael Price’s Single-Wire Sculptures

Eight of the portraits from Social Hour by Michael Price
Eight of the portraits from Social Hour by Michael Price

Each of these friendly faces started life as a single strand of wire. Part contour drawing and part sculpture, 27 of them are hanging out together in the gallery as part of the installation Social Hour.

The curvy M in the corner stands for Michael Price, the young artist behind this installation. It’s proved very popular this month — the photo below was taken before the wall got covered in red dots — so we asked Price to tell us about how he got started bending, and the twists along the way.

Social Hour, black coated copper wire, by Michael Price (click for a larger image)
Social Hour, black coated copper wire, by Michael Price (click for a larger image)
Social Hour (detail) by Michael Price
Social Hour (detail) by Michael Price

What’s your age? Have you had your art in other exhibits?
Michael Price: I am 17 years old and this is my first time displaying artwork in a gallery/ exhibition.

How do you create a portrait in wire? What’s the process?
There is no real planning when I do my artwork. The hardest part is thinking about where to start, and how that affects where I will end up; but other than that, I think of the shape I want the wire in and bend it into that shape. After a while, all of the bends start to make sense as the final product grows nearer to being finished.

What was your goal with Social Hour?
I did not have very high goals for this exhibition as it is my first. My main goal was to make an installation that would but liked and appreciated by my fellow artists by channeling my youth and originality. I also wanted a way to honor those who had supported me as a rising artist and these portraits seemed like the perfect way to do that.

Michael Price installs Social Hour for "Not a Box."
Michael Price installs Social Hour for “Not a Box.”
Social Hour (detail) by Michael Price
Social Hour (detail) by Michael Price

What was the inspiration for making the portraits phone-sized?
The idea of making portraits was already a lingering idea in my head, as I have made several original portraits but struggled the most with those I had to model after actual people. While I was in school, one of my art teachers had commissioned a series that was framed in cell phones, and I decided to draw from that idea when I made this one. Plus, I thought it’d be more fun to do several small pieces instead of one massive piece and the diversity would make the process more bearable for myself.

Who are some of the people depicted?
The people range from having very a close relationship with me to being total strangers, based on the distance they are to me. I am in the center at eye level because, like most people, I sometimes see myself at the center of my world. My grandfather is to my right, my best friend at my left, and my younger sister is below me.

The only exception to my rule is the bottom four. They were originally four people I saw working in The Art League gallery while working on this project and I thought they deserved their own spot separate from the other people for pushing me to apply and then supporting me throughout the process.

How (or why) did you start using wire for sculpture? Do you work in any other media?
It has been about 10 months since I started using wire. The main reason I started was because I always had a material I would work with while in school. They helped keep me calm and gave me an escape when I needed it. After losing interest with the other media I had used prior, I decided to consider wire. It was foreign, yet familiar to what I used before and that made it perfect candidate.

I have worked in several media before wire, mostly as a sculptor. Materials like yarn, business cards, duct tape, and aluminum foil are all media I have worked with as well. Though, my skill in those materials has not reached the level I have with wire working.

Have you had any formal art training, or are you self-taught?
I am a self-taught artist.

As one of the younger artists at The Art League, what are your plans or goals for your art in the future?
One of my goals is to hopefully, to have the honor of presenting my work in another gallery installation. I would also like to reach the level that many artists in the Torpedo Factory have reached, having my own studio and being known throughout the art community. One of my biggest goals is just growing as an artist and learning how to eventually, make a living out of doing this.

“Not a Box” is open through Sunday, August 7. Follow Michael Price (@thecooloreo) on Instagram!

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