Wednesday, March 21, 2012
You may call them scrap yards or junk yards, but Joseph Jilbert considers them shopping malls. What are nuts and bolts to everybody else are gold nuggets to Jilbert. Such is the point of view of a scrap metal sculptor who incidentally looks out for the environment with each creation.
“What you throw away, I sculpt away,” says Jilbert. “I’m a green artist.”
Jilbert’s sculptures range in size from 2 inches in height to 60 feet tall. He does not cut, bend or paint about 90 percent of the scrap metal he uses in each piece he welds together for his creations. Nor does he have a preconceived notion of what he will make. “All the pieces talk to me,” says Jilbert. “They just tell me what to become.”
And you can see what they told him at the Oil Center Gardens, Saturday, March 24, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., in “So Swank in the OC with Joseph Jilbert – An Art & Music Event.”
Jilbert uses scrap metal that otherwise would be bound for the junk heap: machine cutoffs, broken farm equipment, oil field parts and metal people just drop off. “My support system is oil companies from all over the state of Louisiana, machine shops, sugar cane companies, farmers, passersby, a banker, the neighbor, you name it,” says Jilbert. “It’s all cool. They just feed me constantly all this metal being thrown away.” Lately, Jilbert’s been working on an 18-foot-tall mermaid called Blush being pulled along by a seahorse that’s 9 feet tall. An Indian warrior named Squanto stands 16 feet tall and weighs in at 4,952 pounds. Then there’s the Comet Catcher, a “wild looking alien girl riding a meteorite catching a comet,” he says.
And you can also expect to see a 25-foot tall dinosaur. “He’s going to be a trip to get down there,” Jilbert says. “He’s a raptor, but I call him the Scraptor ’cause it’s all scrap metal.”
“There’s a lot of huge sculptures,” says Jilbert, but there are also normal size pieces as well. “There’s nothing I cannot look at that I can’t build. I can build an animal and make it look just like your pet. I redid a guy’s girlfriend. He said, ‘Dude, I don’t have a girlfriend anymore.’ I said I’ll make you one,” Jilbert adds with a laugh. “He showed me a picture and I made him one. I said, ‘Use lots of oil.’”
Jilbert says he has a program for leasing his sculptures out on a three-month basis. “Instead of paying so much for sculptures, I started a program where you can lease them out for a month for $500 to $1,000,” says Jilbert, adding that a restaurant in Baton Rouge has one and so does a hotel in Arkansas. “There’s a lot of downtown areas that are trying to bring people back downtown, and naturally they’re trying the arts and everything. So, most people don’t have a half-million budget to bring people downtown,” he says. “So you can lease them out.”
Jilbert, 56, has been an artist since he was 5 years old. He is the 14th of 18 children in a third generation of cotton farmers. He’s currently based on four acres of land in St. Gabriel and has plans to make a sculpture garden. “I have thousands of sculptures,” says the half Cherokee and Norwegian artist. “My toys are just getting bigger and bigger.”
Transporting the sculptures is quite the feat, says Jilbert. It takes cranes, Bobcats, frontloaders, loaders to hoist them on a flatbed where they’re strapped down.
“You want to see something spectacular; it’s better than being on the best float in Mardi Gras,” he says. “It’s absolutely awesome to see these things going down the road, three-to-five big trailers. You wouldn’t believe the traffic, the honking, the people, the picture-taking. It’s amazing.”
It’s just part of the process, Jilbert says — one he thoroughly enjoys. “That’s what I do. I have a lot of fun. I don’t work, I’m an artist. I sculpt,” he says. “I do this seven days a week, 16, 20 hours a day. I can’t stop. People keep dropping off scrap metal constantly, and I just can’t wait to get to it all.”
Some sculptures can take from 22 hours to 80 hours to even 120 hours complete. “I’ll do the small sculptures to give me a break,” he says. “And then I’ll jump back on the big one and go to some small ones and then some big ones.” Going from one sculpture to the other is one thing. Soldering the different types of metal, textures at odd angles is quite another.
“I do things most welders won’t even attempt to do,” says Jilbert, a self-taught welder. “I’m doing welding on different metals. I’m having to fuse them together and that’s a science in itself.”
As part of an art program called Art and Seek he does with students from nearby schools, Jilbert will make something out of the scraps the students give him and then they must find it on the sculpture. “They have to look for it. See what it became. A finger. An eyeball. It’s Art and Seek,” he says. “It teaches them. It opens up their minds.”
Jilbert says a student asked him recently why he became an artist.
“‘Mr. JoJo. If artists are starving, why did you chose it?’” Jilbert recalls the student asking him.
“I didn’t choose it,” Jilbert told student. “It chose me.”
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
Three bedroom in Lawtell or two bedroom in Rayne
Fall's new darling
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
An investment group led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets will buy the Louisiana power company Cleco for $3.4 billion.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
"I feel it is appropriate to speak up when there are topics that are being bandied about with little or no factual data to back them."
Urgent Care clinics unprepared for Ebola; Nazis collected Social Security; Hawaii dodges a bullet and more national and international news for Monday, October 20, 2014.
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Two bedroom cottage in Lafayette or three bedroom traditional in Erath
Gulf Brew ready threads
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
We welcome nominations from readers and leaders throughout the business community in Lafayette and the five surrounding parishes.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Ebola is kind of terrifying if you watch too much Fox News and CNN. Especially Fox, which makes everything look terrifying because, well, War on Christmas and Obama and all.
Local developer’s Lake Charles Gardens LLC purchases buildings and leases; land still owned by Dugas family.
One bedroom townhouse or two bedroom townhouse in Lafayette
Hit the barre for a good cause
Whatever district you are in, please do your research. Find out what the schools need in order to teach. Better yet, ask your child’s teacher. They know!
Get your groove on with two free concerts in Downtown Lafayette Friday, both at Parc Sans Souci.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.