Skip to comments.Out Of Tinfoil Comes Art
Posted on 10/26/2007 10:05:39 AM PDT by Incorrigible
Peter Schwickwrath with one of his favorite foil creations, a sculpture of a blind man walking a dog. (Photo by Tim Farrell)
PISCATAWAY, N.J. The tinfoil covering your leftover pot roast could be Peter Schwickwrath's next masterpiece.
The aluminum wrapping best known to those with a penchant for cooking has become the art medium of choice for Schwickwrath, a carpenter who has made a hobby of turning thin, shiny sheets into intricate painted sculptures.
His elaborate works have earned a spot in the collection of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, which has commissioned him to create sculptures for its museums around the country. Schwickwrath's plans for the displays include a 23-foot tinfoil King Kong, which he estimates will require two tons of Reynolds Wrap. (And only Reynolds will do.)
"It's not just for food," Schwickwrath said as his thick, rough fingers kneaded a small sheet of foil into a 4-inch prancing stallion in less than a minute. "I always see the next piece in my head. I just do it. I really don't know where it comes from."
In a cluttered hobby workshop, Schwickwrath, 54, molds the foil with a spartan set of tools by any sculptor's standards. For most projects, the curved and sharp edges of his Bic lighter work just fine, though he also relies on a small needle, glue and acrylic paint to polish his works.
One such work, titled "Bad Blind Date," features a 10-inch-tall werewolf, rabid and howling for blood, and a blonde screaming in terror, ensnared in forest brush as she tries to escape. The work was featured in a book recently published by Ripley's.
As a boy, Schwickwrath said, he always played with clay and became proficient enough to sculpt blindfolded.
It wasn't until 12 years ago that he stumbled upon his calling as an aluminum foil artist. In an attempt to calm his crying son, wrath grabbed some foil and shaped it into a dinosaur.
"The foil takes a life of itself," he said, admiring the texture it can give a sculpture.
Schwickwrath's wife, Roseanne, said she wasn't a fan at first, partly because boxes of aluminum foil kept disappearing from the kitchen.
"I thought he was going insane," she said.
He said: "I would get mad when I'd see food covered with foil. I thought, what a waste."
While he was refining his craft, Schwickwrath would share his art with friends in exchange for the occasional free lunch or drink. He won some local awards for his work. Then, this summer, his son secretly submitted his work to Ripley's.
Edward Meyer, vice president for exhibits and archives at Ripley's Entertainment, said, "He took something mundane and simple and made art from it, and he does a damn good job."
Schwickwrath is now getting requests and orders for his work on his Web site (foiledagainart.com). He spends most nights sculpting. More-elaborate projects, like a life-size sculpture of himself currently in the works, take weeks to complete, he said.
Schwickwrath says he never copies his creations from pictures. He doesn't use models or make sketches in advance. The work flows from a mental image. He starts by focusing on the central figure of the scene and allows that to determine the scale of the surroundings. When completed, most sculptures weigh no more than three pounds. They don't resemble tinfoil as much as origami or papier-mache artwork.
Using different brushes, he paints them with a special technique he discovered to keep the paint sticking to the foil.
"I failed all my art classes in school," said Schwickwrath. "How about that?" An apprentice trains with him.
He says he owes much to his love for horror movies, but he also creates wildlife and medieval sculptures. Among his favorite pieces is the self-explanatory "Blind Man Walking a Dog."
Schwickwrath said no subject matter is beyond the endless possibilities he sees for aluminum foil sculpture.
"I could make you anything," he said. "I'm the master of foil."
(Suleman Din is a staff writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He can be contacted at sdin(at)starledger.com.)
Not for commercial use. For educational and discussion purposes only.
I might have to place an order for an custom, elaborate tin-foil hat!
I am not terribly impressed.
I think these are actually pretty cool
I’m wondering which person will make the disaster in CA into art.
I thought this thread was going to be about Art Bell.
Geez, reminds me of Bill Clinton.
Tinfoil-mâché? Sounds a little pretentious.
Is that lady wearing a flimsy bernuce?
Oh. I thought that's where news came from...
and safety from Intergalactic Rovian Thought waves...
Genuine American folk art. I like it
It strikes me as crafty not arty.
Me too - just couldn’t resist the (attempted) pun. :0)
You are very punny! ;9)