Texas Artist Coalition's Featured Artist: Robertus van der Wege
My most recent body of work involves bicycles. I have selected to use these simple pieces of engineering because they are so universal in nature, and I have come to see them as a metaphor for humanity. Nothing short of our ability to walk, is used more as a means of locomotion throughout the world. Bicycles are also used for every imaginable function, making them ideal subject matter.
Using bicycles as a sculptural form, I have found myself viewing them both as conceptual and as figurative objects. I am delighted that so many people find my work familiar and ask if they can ride them, or ask how I might ride those that I have clearly worked beyond ride-ability. The desire of the viewer to touch and climb upon my work has led me to see myself as a sculptor who is also a toy maker.
During my travels, I have found it interesting to see how different societies view bicycles. The knowledge of the bicycle mechanic is universal. The skill to repair a bike is the same in Boston, Bangkok, Beirut, or Beijing and would not require language as a prerequisite to solving the most complex mechanical problem. Other aspects are quite different, however. In Africa, I could not find scrap bicyclees to use in my sculpture. Every bicycle and bike part is used and reused over and over again. In the Netherlands, bikes are a way of life and personal ownership of them is secondary to greater public good.
In the United States, there are piles of bikes that are left to rust in scrap heaps and waiting to be turned into newer models. It is this aspect of the human condition and our often strained relationship with technology and nature that fascinates me. That is why I sometimes incorporate living plants as part of my sculpture. These need to be maintained in order to survive, in the same way that we too will die if we do not maintain our planet. Dismissing much of what we have done to our environment in the name of progress, while continuing to utilize finite resources, limits our potential as a species. I believe my work is a reminder that we must do more with less and be prepared to rediscover old sustainable technologies.
My work begs the viewer to look beyond the functional and find a new dysfunctional aesthetic within these familiar objects. If we can do this, perhaps we can look beyond our own emotional, mental, or physical limitations and find expanded understanding of what is "normal". - Robertus van der Wege