“Few things are more satisfying than the evolution of magnificent sculptures. What was raw plates of steel, becomes a potent symbol of aesthetics.”
These are the words of Joseph Rastovich, a young artist born and raised in Portland, Oregon, USA. Joseph Rastovich is an award winning and well known public artist in Tri-Cities Washington. Working mostly in abstract and symbolic steel sculpture, he finds purpose and joy in creating public works of art that can be enjoyed by many for years to come.
I had the pleasure to speak with Joseph about his work and his life:
Radu: I know that you were born in a family of artists, have you felt from a tender age that art is your meaning in life? And also when did you start to create sculptures?
Joseph: Having been raised by two professional artists, I was allowed freedom and access to a great variety of creative mediums. I was unschooled every other year, which means I was allowed and supported to learn what I choose. As a result, I acquired varied skills and diverse knowledge. This unique childhood and immersion in the art-world influenced my views towards the meaning and purpose of life. After years of searching, I believe that the purpose of life is to gather new and diverse experiences, therefore adding to the “pool” of collective unconsciousness.
An artist is one who develops something new, whether is it through vision, sound, thought, or movement. Creating something new adds to the collective unconsciousness, and thus is the purpose of life.
At age 14, I had a job as a dishwasher at a jazz and wine club. I invested my money in metal-working tools like a welder, plasma cutter, angle grinders, etc. My initial interest in metal-working was to restore a 1957 Mercury Monterey and a 1963 “Farmall” tractor that I inherited. Then when I found a stack of old plow disks at a scrap yard, I welded them into a 4.5 ft. diameter sphere; this sphere was the beginning of my sculpture life.
R: Have you tried to “involve” in any other art form?
J: I appreciate all art forms. Some that I am continuing to explore are abstract painting, original music, improve dance, novel philosophy and gourmet cooking. I am incorporating many of these other art forms into my sculpture. I am painting them abstractly, making them musically interactive, letting them move, and including philosophical symbolism. Still trying to figure how to cook with sculptures!!
R: How do you feel about not being so exposed like other artists? What I mean…I can see that you have created a lot of public works and I presume sometimes people tend to walk by, admire, but never think of the person that created that sculpture.
J: Actually, public art has been beneficial to my exposure! That is the great thing about public art, anyone and everyone can enjoy public art while it enriches culture and creates unity in the community. I have people stop me on the street in other cities, because they know my work. I love conversations and meeting new people; art has enriched my life that way! Socializing and networking with people is absolutely essential for any professional artist.
R: What was the highest amount of time spent on completing a sculpture?
J: The longest time I spent working on a sculpture was around 9 months. This sculpture was a set of three 23’ tall bunchgrasses completed in early 2012. The Desert Bunchgrasses required miles of plasma cutting by hand, grinding, and welding. I was also fabricating the “Fruits of Our Labor” sculpture and creating inventory for the Sausalito Art Festival at the same time. I work on sculptures everyday, wearing full safety gear in temperatures ranging from 120 degrees to 0 degrees. It’s gritty, loud, heavy, and hot, but I love it! Working is in my blood and on my mind! I moderate the hardness of my career with the softness of nature.
R: Have you ever had an idea that couldn’t been put in practice, from a technical point of view?
J: Steel’s strength, durability, and malleability have few limitations as a material in sculpture. I want to start incorporating utilitarian uses into my sculptures. I want to create sculptures that moderate temperature. I want to create sculptures that clean the air. I want to create sculptures that clean runoff water. I want to create sculptures that predict weather. These concepts are not impossible but they present new research and challenges. Since I have worked with steel for many years, I tend to conceptualize within the constraints of the material, so I have yet had an idea that could not be carried out.
R: Besides sculpture, do you have any other hobbies that you invest time in?
J: I have many other interests outside of sculpture. As an avid nature lover… I love to hike, mountain bike, backpack, forage wild-plants, organic garden, practice natural health, and pursue self-sufficiency. In addition, I play piano, guitar, hand-drums, and didgeridoo. I am always exploring and learning something new!
So let’s explore something new and take a look at some of Joseph’s creations: