Up Close and Personal with Metal Artist Cheryl Garcia

First in a series of artist profiles by Randall Graelish

 When speaking to Jacksonville metal sculptor Cheryl Garcia, it’s apparent from the look in her eyes that she has an emotional attachment with her work.  A life-altering event during a family road trip to Colorado when she was eight years old is largely responsible for her becoming a professional artist. “As our family vehicle traveled down the road, my eyes were drawn to a 40 foot tall wild-looking structure out in the middle of the desert. I learned later on that this large object rising from the barren Bonneville Salt Flats was actually the 87 foot high “Tree of Utah” sculpture by Swedish artist Karl Momen.” As the old pickup truck neared the object, her father pulled over to allow the family to take in the spectacle drawing Cheryl’s attention.  “It was a life-changing event as I stared in wonder at the monumental sculpture before me. I knew at that moment that was what I wanted to do…it took my breath away.”

At around age five her family settled in Colorado where Cheryl’s young eyes and imagination where drawn to metal, rocks and anything heavy – rusted tools, farm equipment, and broken and twisted metal captivated her attention. Today, she remembers with childlike glee the way rust flaked apart and left a chalky residue on her hands. Even the smell arrested her senses. “To spend the afternoon getting dirty outdoors, leading the neighborhood kids into canyons and historic dumpsites scavenging for metal and other interesting objects was an ideal way to spend the day.”  She would drag her newfound treasures back home to nail, screw and wire them to an old fence her father offered-up as one of her earliest canvases.  Today, the established artist reflects fondly, “Many of those pieces still reside on the fence today.”

Cheryl feels it’s important to understand the material she works with which led her to become a certified welder in stainless steel, aluminum, structural steel and pipe welding. “I spent a few years in the industrial field learning such skills as operating bridge cranes, fork lifts, hydraulic lifts, reading blue prints and other aspects of metal working. Learning to properly rig things so as to not drop tons of steel on my fellow workers seemed like a good idea and has proved beneficial while assembling my art today.”

  Fulfilling another desire to apply her art as architectural elements for homes, Cheryl then learned all aspects of building a house from the ground up while attending a year-long course in construction technology at Rogue Community College.  “Upon completion, I received my contractor’s license, which I’ve kept active for the past dozen years.”

Cheryl describes her current body of work as, “wild and bizarre,” and notes she’s doing things she’s never attempted before. “It’s what I want to be doing… pushing myself with a combined conscious and intuitive effort to reveal a more natural-raw feel.” She adds, “I want the rough-cut beauty and don’t want it to be perfect.”

Cheryl concludes, “I try to get the message across through my metal art that people should dream big and live their dreams no matter how impossible life seems. Everyone should follow their heart and travel the path that is most obvious without trying to force it…you will find the direction that is right for you… true happiness comes from pursuing those dreams.”

Learn more about Cheryl and her art by clicking here and here for her website.