This month’s Gallery Walk presented by the City of Bloomington launched on March 3. The Venue, a participant in the Gallery Walk, is showcasing Bert Gilbert’s molten iron pieces for the month. Even in the rain, the First Friday Gallery Walk drew a crowd from all around the city.
Bert Gilbert is an IU alumnus, artist and sculptor working primarily in cast iron to create surreal works that transcend the constructs of art mediums. He said the material chosen to create the art is a crucial part of the message behind the piece
Gilbert said he was most interested in the dynamic quality of the material properties of molten iron when mixed with other reactive substances and thermally altered in the mold. He said that he was especially inspired by the “moments of dynamic splashing frozen in the mold” which it produced.
In recent years, Gilbert’s artistic journey has also experienced a period of renaissance. After years of adapting his art to his lifestyle, he has finally been given the chance to flip the script and embrace art full-time. Just like the materials — which must match the occasion — Gilbert said he adapted to his changing career path, family life and unforeseen weather, which allowed him to change his art practice to accommodate the seasons.
Before retiring and embracing sculpture full time, Gilbert said he found great satisfaction in his remodeling company, Gilbert Construction Inc., which taught him about working with different materials and their qualities. Gilbert’s current fascination with molten iron arose from his past experiences in remodeling. The material gave his surreal and abstract visions a concrete base, while also surprising him with its physical and chemical properties, he said.
“I’ve learned to realize that having everything perfectly done isn’t as important as giving the viewer an opportunity to explore the issue you want to talk about with you, allowing that trail of exploration to be a part of your piece,” Gilbert said.
His current exhibit at The Venue, “The Melting Point,” seeks to encourage people to stop and understand what’s going on with a piece for longer than a glance. He said he hopes to create a dialogue between the viewer and the piece, as well as between the viewers in the room.
When speaking about Gilbert as a featured artist, Dave Coleman, the owner of The Venue, highlighted the importance of Gilbert’s artistic journey.
“By doing what he’s done with his life — having a full career, family and then coming back to his art — he’s so much more energized about it,” Coleman said. “He’s doing exactly what he’s wanted to do for years.”
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Gilbert’s wife, Amy Gilbert, also commented on his evolution, as she’s observed him closely over the years, moving from his concrete surreal pieces to the newly termed splashes of “ironography.”
“They are strong pieces because of the material but also have a fragile and delicate quality to them because of the technique,” she said.
Amy said that she especially enjoys his new experimental works and highlighted a sculptural piece he made for her for their recent anniversary — a piece she said resembled a flower dispersing into a thousand little pieces.
Bert Gilbert’s work is a celebration of the messiness of life while embracing each moment that comes along the way. “The Melting Pot” reflects that idea of nature putting things off balance, like dynamic spills of iron and the artist searching for cohesion and meaning along the way.