Kim Cridler - 3D
"I'm in love with objects... things you pick up and have a relationship with and how they define you as a human being," said art metals professor Kim Cridler. "I've always been drawn to the decorative and ornamental."
As she creates non-functional work, primarily in simple steel and bronze structures, Cridler reintroduces decorative features, from ceramics to elements that evoke the natural world, such as wax, hair, silk and bone.
The kinds of decorative objects often found in antique and resale shops and how these objects fit into cultural and historical contexts fascinates Cridler.
Growing up on a farm in Western Michigan, she marveled at seemingly common objects around home, especially after learning the family histories behind them.
She recognizes that crafted objects represent the culture and the people who create and use them and sees that such objects – like a drinking cup, a hairpin, or a spoon – exist in ways beyond their function.
"Every day I try to find something that is really beautiful” – such as details in the weave of a carpet or how tree branches look in the winter – in order to better understand what beauty means, she said.
"I wasn't good at fixing things, but I love making stuff with my hands," said Cridler, who got hooked on metalsmithing. She describes her work as a "tribute to nature” – an attempt to create objects that come as close as humanly possible to the perfection and beauty in nature.
"That's all I really want to do... I want to make things that people will want to look at for a long time," she said.
Visitors to the new Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona will be able to look at one of Cridler’s objects every time they approach the Monroe entrance. Above the entryway hangs a wreath-like metal sculpture of interwoven agave leaves representing local flora.
Entitled “Halo,” the 32-foot by 4-foot wreath represents good fortune, transformation through regeneration and the continuity and cycle of life, Cridler said.
“Having a great relationship with the community makes it a lot more interesting for me,” said Cridler, who designed a 240-foot pedestrian bridge for the city of Phoenix in 2003.
The Grovers Avenue Pedestrian Bridge includes rounded arches that reflect the local Spanish revival architecture, simultaneously serving as a formal gateway for motorists, and providing pedestrians with an intimate interior that is lined with bronze plaques cast with the thoughts and sentiments of local people.
The bridge planning group held workshops in which community members told stories about where they live and suggested elements of the area that they wanted to see in the bridge, Cridler said.
“I’m not a professional public artist but I have a curiosity about how people view their environment,” she said. “It was a fascinating experience.”