The Art of Iron
Tom Joyce is a MacArthur Foundation
Fellow, artist, and designer whose artworks are
in the permanent collections of the Museum of
Arts and Design, New York City; the Smithsonian
Institution, Washington, D.C.; the Detroit
Institute of Arts; the Minneapolis Institute of
Art; the Museum of Fine Arts–Boston; and the
National September 11 Memorial & Museum,
New York City. The study of African metalworking
is a passion of his and has to some degree
informed his artistic practice, which itself
was fueled by early training in the art of forging
iron. I visited him in his studio in Santa Fe, New
Mexico, where we talked about various aspects
of his career as an artist and about an exhibition
he’s co-curated for UCLA’s Fowler Museum,
Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths,
opening this summer in Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Conru: You’re an artist who works with
metal, which has been your medium of artistic
expression almost since the beginning of your
career. Would you tell us how that started?
Tom Joyce: I began learning how to forge iron
in El Rito, New Mexico, in an informal apprenticeship
at age fourteen. I was given the keys
to the shop at sixteen and eventually opened
my studio in Santa Fe in 1977. My sculpture is
made primarily there and in a factory outside
Chicago, whereas a design studio in Brussels
provides space to plan larger public art projects
and to develop maquettes, drawings, photographs,
K. C.: So your fi rst training was as a functional
Interview by Kevin Conru
FIG. 1 (left):
Tom Joyce forging a sculpture
in a factory outside Chicago.
Photo © Anne-Marie Bouttiaux.
FIG. 2 (center left):
Tom Joyce outside his adobe
studio in Santa Fe.
Photo © Christopher Sturman.
FIG.3 (bottom left):
Tom Joyce sculpture
installation at the Center for
Contemporary Arts, Santa
Left: Datum II, forged stainless
steel, 203 cm, 2,744 kg.
Right: Datum I, forged stainless
steel, 190 cm, 2,277 kg.
Background: Decalescence, forged
stainless steel, 4 pieces (2 visible),
dim. variable, 7,228 kg.
Photo © Daniel Barsotti.