INTERVIEW: Sculptor Jeff Owen

WHO IS JEFF OWEN?

Jeff Owen is a nationally recognized metal sculptor. His sculptures express his emotions, concepts, dreams, and the patterns he sees in life. Owen’s sculptures have won awards at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s 39th National Juried Exhibition (2nd Place), the Carmel Sculpture in the Park State Juried Exhibition (First Place – Emerging Artist), Santa Clara Indoor Sculpture Exhibition, Los Gatos Art Association Member and Open Juried Exhibitions, invited to Golden Globes Gifting Suites, invited to bid on gift sculptures for the United States State Department G20 Summit, and many other events and exhibitions. 

WHEN AND HOW DID JEFF BECOME AN ARTIST?

Mr. Owen’s “art” life began as a child sitting in the back seat of a 1957 Chevrolet with a drawing tablet, only the best from the art store, and his favorite #2 pencil. His mother would toss him and all of her drawing supplies into the car and drive all around town looking for interesting buildings, homes, or people to draw. Always on a busy street, cars whizzing by with all the noise that accompanies them; no matter, they were there to draw whatever was out the side window of the car. He’d say his drawings were never much to look at, but he always received tons of “that’s beautiful” or “I wish I could draw like that” from his mother. 

WHAT SPARKED JEFF'S INTEREST IN METAL SCULPTURE? 

Mr. Owen’s life as a metal sculptor began when he discovered a neglected oxy-acetylene torch set and a small welder in the back of his father-in-law’s garage. “What is that?” Jeff asked his father in law Chet. “Oh that, you wouldn’t know” Chet said. “That’s for welding metal.” Jeff persisted, “Can I have it? Are you going to use it?” Chet’s response, “What are you going to do with it? You don’t even know how to use it.” Finally after coaxing it off of him, Jeff brought the old torch set and welder back to San Jose and started creating. He has been addicted to metal welding ever since. Steel is the perfect media for Jeff Owen to express his emotions, dreams, and visions. 

WHAT'S YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?

I create my sculpture with the intention of creating artwork that has never been created before. I spend many hours each day in my studio arranging and rearranging pieces of metal into unique shapes – until I feel the sculpture “comes to life” on its own. I’ve often said that my sculptures create themselves; I am only there to assist them in this process. I work steadily, calmly, and passionately on each sculpture and each piece is a unique individual unto itself. I incorporate patterns into all of my sculpture. Taking one piece, adding to it, or deleting from it, then ending when the sculpture encompasses all of my creativity, this is what charges up my artistic energies. When my creative force is flowing, I work on a sculpture to completion. It is finished when the creative flow ends.

WHAT DO YOU ASPIRE TO CREATE WITH EACH PIECE? 

I have been an artist all my life. I am fascinated with engineering and architecture. The shapes of metal, its patterns, textures and grains; all entice me to create. My aspiration is to create sculpture that is unique, something that no one has done before. I resist conformity and mass production. My art is as individual as I am. My sculptures are made from rough forms and strong characters that have passed through all polish and are back to nature - the rough again - transformed. 

WHERE DO YOUR MATERIALS COME FROM? 

My sculpture can come from the found discards in nature, from parts and pieces, assembled or monolithic, solid form, open form, lines of form, or, like a painting, the illusion of form. 

WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR INSPIRATION FROM? 

My artist’s language is the memory from sight. My art is made from dreams, and visions, and things not known, and least of all from things that can and cannot be said. It comes from the inside of who I am when I face myself. It is my inner declaration of purpose; it is a factor which determines my artist’s identity. Words can do little in explaining a work of art, let alone the position of the artist while in the creative irrational flow of power and force. 

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A PIECE IS FINISHED? 

When I begin a sculpture I’m not always sure how it is going to end. In a way it may have a relationship to the work before, it is in continuity with the previous work—it often holds a promise or a gesture toward the one to follow. I do not often follow its path from a conceived drawing. If I have a strong feeling about its start, I do not need to know its end; the battle for solution, finish, end, is the most important. If the end of the work seems too complete and final, posing no question, I am apt to work back from the end that in its finality, poses the question and not the solution. When I start a sculpture it may be with only a realized part; the rest if travel, excitement, and realization to be unfolded, much in the order of a dream of quest.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY THROUGH YOUR WORK? 

I do not seek answers. I do not think of what the work is for, except that it is made to be seen. I’ve made it because it comes closer to saying who I am than any other method I can use. This work is my identity. There are no words in my mind during its creation, and I’m certain words are not needed in its seeing. That is the marvel—to question but not to understand. Seeing is the true language of perception. Understanding is for words. As far as I am concerned, after I’ve made the work, I’ve said everything I can say.

Jeff Owen's work is available and on display now at JCO'S Place.