Entries in Pittsburgh Salvage Artist (2)


Arbor Aid 2011: Salvage Art Goes Uptown

On October 28th, David Calfo will be showing three pieces at the Arbor Aid 2011 fundraiser (benefiting Tree Pittsburgh). Founded in 2006, Tree Pittsburgh is all about enhancing the city's vitality by protecting and restoring its urban forest. The organization aims to do this through community planting, education, advocacy and maintenance.

As a native Pittsburgher and lover of all things outdoors, the Arbor Aid art show is a natural fit for Calfo and his work. A total of three pieces were submitted (and subsequently accepted) into the competition, which features work from more than 40 other artists.

This year's Arbor Aid theme is "The Vessel," and all submissions must be made out of reclaimed wood (the materials must also be sourced sustainably). Here, Calfo had great success - he's the only artist sumitting work salvaged from the historic 158-year-old McBride Log House.

Although this is obviously the type of theme and media Calfo is familiar with, he decided to use the opportunity to step out of his comfort zone a bit by playing with new shapes, shading and vantage points. The result is The Seeker, followed by Soul Searcher (the natural progression of the Lone Walker, a piece that sold at Art All Night earlier this year). These sculptures were created out of wood salvaged from The McBride Log House, one of the oldest log homes in the Pittsburgh area. After weathering more than three centuries, the wood has been reborn into the pieces you see below:

Soul Searcher ($1,400)

Is Soul Searcher kneeling in prayer, defeat or simply deep in thought? We are all created from the elements of the earth, and this piece depicts man coalescing out of the dark, rising from the clay.

Representing the whole of evolution from stardust to human beings of conscious thought we see the transformation of man as he rises out of the elements for the first time. We are all faced with the same thoughts of mortality, self-doubt and the existential question of why we are here, and we can see ourselves in Soul Searcher’s effort to pull free from the darkness in his quest for spiritual enlightenment.

The Seeker ($2,400) 

The Seeker continues a series of figures constructed of wood salvaged from local sources (specifically, the McBride Log House). The simple form distills the human essence to its most basic primal elements. The Seeker walks through life, learning from his environment. The lack of distinct features first makes us question what The Seeker is thinking.

But after examining the Seeker from various points of view, it becomes apparent that the face expresses emotion despite the lack of facial features. The Seeker becomes a reflection of our own inner psyche on life‘s journey, learning from the experience of every step we take on this planet.

The Hunky Rail Gang ($4,000) 

This sculpture is made of wood molds that were originally used in the making of sand casted steel products. The molds and the steel used in this piece date back to 1924 and were salvaged from a mill in Beaver Falls, PA (two days before a wrecking ball got there).

The train tracks inside the mills were all maintained by mill workers, not the railroad companies. They were called the rail gang. As a 4th generation Hungarian steel mill family, Calfo has dedicated this piece to his great grandfather, grandfather, and uncles who all worked together for time at the Homestead Works and were called the hunky rail gang. 

Interested in attending Arbor Aid? You can buy tickets here (prices range from $130-$25). Special thanks to Tree Pittsburgh for hosting an art competition based on sustainability, and for making a beautiful difference in the city we all love so much. Yinz're doin' us prahd! Special shoutout to Caitlin Lenahan, Tree Pittsburgh's Education & Outreach Coordinator, for coordinating the event with a bunch of crazy artists.


Un-boring Pittsburgh

The Boring Pittsburgh website posted a fantastic feature on David Calfo's art, entitled Dave Calfo's Heritage of Steel. The writeup featured several of Calfo's pieces, including Every Key, Past Progress and Hungarian Heritage (two of which are still available for purchase since the article's publication). The famous story of David's first piece of salvage artwork, composed almost entirely of rolling papers and made on a dare, was also recounted:

A master carpenter by trade, Calfo created his first piece of art on a dare. While renovating a bar in Lawrenceville and after moving some benches, Calfo and his coworkers found a bunch of old cigarette lighters and some rolling papers.

“A friend challenged me to make something out of it,” he said.

So he did. He took the cigarette lighters and made a frame, then created a collage out of the rolling papers. He had about a dozen old wooden clocks lying around, so he added three of them to the piece – one to represent the past, one for the present and one for the future.

“I called it ‘Changing the Times,’” he said.

He can’t remember who bought it or how much that person paid, but he does remember that the buyer knew the bar that spawned it and that the guy thought it was a fantastic piece. The piece shares a story with most of Calfo’s creations, the majority of which are composed of things most people would throw away.

Boring Pittsburgh is a website/Twitter phenomenon based out of Pittsburgh, covering all things Yinzer since tweeting became the rage. They're also founders of the #WhatToDo412 hashtag, and you can follow them on Twitter here.