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Location:
West Lafayette
Phone:
(765) 404-2817
Medium:
Metalwork
FEATURED WORK
Dominick Andrisani

“When I wanted to learn blacksmithing, there were Indiana blacksmiths to help and encourage me. When I wanted to learn to weld, there was Ivy Tech. When I wanted to become a machinist, there were machinists willing to help. When I wanted to grow my metalworking business, there were people and institutions like Indiana Artisan to advise me.”

Around the time the “horse whisperer” gained fame for communicating with horses in a common language, Dominick Andrisani began speaking the language of metal. A project with his son, “to convert a rusty old Jeep into a mean off-road machine,” as he says, gave Dominick the unexpected opportunity with metal. Soon after, the associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics in Purdue University’s College of Engineering, who holds a PhD in electrical engineering, enrolled at Ivy Tech to learn to weld, launching what could be called his “metal whispering.”

“Years ago, my father taught me the essentials of working with wood,” Dominick said. “But for most of my life, metalworking was beyond my capability.” Working with his son on the Jeep was his opportunity to cut and weld steel with a torch, and he says those first metalworking skills have served him well over the years.

Dominick began blacksmithing in 2004. After connecting with the blacksmiths at Fort Ouiatenon, in West Lafayette, within weeks he joined the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America (ABANA), then the Indiana Blacksmithing Association (IBA) and, later, the Rocky Forge Blacksmith Guild. “At every turn, when I have needed help with an aspect of my metalworking, I have found that help in Indiana,” he said.

“When I wanted to learn blacksmithing, there were Indiana blacksmiths to help and encourage me. When I wanted to learn to weld, there was Ivy Tech. When I wanted to become a machinist, there were machinists willing to help. When I wanted to grow my metalworking business, there were people and institutions like Indiana Artisan to advise me.”

On a June day, the preparation, connections and practice came together. “I decided to make a sculpture of my hand to give to a friend who had just completed study to become a marriage and family counselor,” Dominick said. “I thought an extended hand was a fitting symbol to give someone starting a new career helping people.”

He succeeded in completing that sculpture, with more determination than skill, he said. “I felt a tremendous joy in creating my first sculpture. There was a miraculous point where the steel seemed to become flesh. That creative moment inspired me to seek other means to create beautiful and meaningful art.” And he continued, saying, “The other important thing that happened was I became inspired to learn blacksmithing as way of producing art in metal.”

Dominick says he is inspired when he can “give life” to something as inanimate as metal. “As I work a sculptural piece towards completion, there is a point where the metal ceases to feel cold and hard and begins to feel soft and inviting,” he says. “When the metal feels like flesh, the piece is finished. This accomplishment always gives me goose bumps because metal is inherently so cold and hard.”

True to the “metal whisperer” analogy, Dominick says a piece of raw metal in the shop will “talk to me,” telling him what it wants to become. “Said another way, I look and handle the raw metal and the idea of what to do with it just pops into my head,” he said. “It’s very cool when it happens.

“Sometimes I will just start forging without knowing what the final shape of a piece will be. As I work the metal, it tells me which way it wants to be pushed. Before long the final shape becomes apparent, and this is amazing to me.”

Dominick says he views Indiana as a “no nonsense, no frills, hard working kind of state,” and his art reflects the same. “When I create an abstract object in metal, it tends to be simple with no nonsense. This shows up in a sculpture like the ‘Bird of Peace,’ where the bird is represented by a single line formed of bronze, an example of what I call economy of line, or using the fewest possible lines to convey the thought or represent an object.” His “economy of line” approach is easily seen in his sculpture called “Silhouetta,” where the three dimensional sculpture of a woman is portrayed with just two lines, one each to represent the outline of the two silhouettes.

Well into his second decade as an artist, Dominick still considers himself new to, and developing in, the craft of metalwork, and, proving he is like every artist, he says it sometimes is difficult to feel confident about the value and desirability of his sculpture. Earning the Indiana Artisan recognition “helped me to evaluate my work in the context of other high quality art and fine craft by artisans recognized by the state for their quality,” he said.

Asked what the recognition means to him, Dominick said, “Exposure of my work to a larger audience is both frightening and necessary. Indiana Artisan has helped me to overcome those fears and to display and sell my metalwork across Indiana.” The metal whisperer continued, “For a long time, I have been happy making metal art for my own enjoyment and use. Making metal art for sale sounded more like work than fun. Indiana Artisan has helped me see the value of effective salesmanship to my continued success as a metal artist.” Both the Indiana Artisan, and that mean off-road machine, have come a long way since their journey began together.