NH artist shows students the magic of found objects
Artist Nathan Walker leads students in a group project at the Lyndeborough Central School, creating art for the walls of a new addition. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)
Walker, 36, was raised in Stratham and recently set up housekeeping in Dover, just a few blocks away from the Children's Museum of New Hampshire, his home away from home. In the basement of the bustling museum, Walker takes ordinary objects — car parts, discarded rebar, gears and pipes — and transforms them into magical creatures.
Walker is the man behind the museum's Blue Crab, which sits happily outside the entrance welcoming children inside. Look closely and you'll notice that the crab's head is actually the hood of an old Volkswagen Beetle. In fact, there's very little about the crab that wasn't once used for something else.
“I want each piece of my sculpture to have had its own history,” he said. “People love exploring the sculpture to see what the pieces were before they became part of it.”
Walker's giant red ant once stood in downtown Portsmouth, and his newest creation, a ukulele-strumming spider, makes his home in Rochester. They are reminders that even the smallest insects deserve a bit of respect for the role they play in life's big picture.
“Making them big makes us confront them, look at them, examine their morphology, their geometry,” said Walker. “If you look at them closely, they look like they're made of tiny bits of metal.”
And because his sculptures are made of recycled objects, Walker hopes to spread the message that there's value in things that have been discarded.
In May, Walker spent time with students at the Lyndeborough Central School creating found-art sculptures to hang on the walls of the new kindergarten wing of the building. With piles of cork and rocks, shells, bottle caps, straws and other items, Walker gave students a template and then let them take over, creating sculptures that celebrated each grade in the school.
Walker, a certified teacher who prefers visiting classrooms to presiding over them, said he connects with kids better than any other age group. Children are open and willing to dive right in and try new things, he said.
“It's their show,” he said. “I'm just there to help them whatever way I can.”
One way is by proving to creative kids that, “being an artist is a valid career choice. You don't have to be a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant.”
He's able to piece together a decent living doing illustration and design work for corporations and organizations, both throughout New Hampshire and around the country.
Walker has also illustrated a children's book, “Floaty Feet.”
When he puts his pencil down or turns off the computer, Walker said he allows his true self to emerge and lets the art take over.
“As an illustrator, I'll always be told what to do,” he said, “but as a sculptor, I can get my hands dirty. I can make a piece just to make it and then hope somebody likes it. I get a chance to let go.”
For more information, visit www.nathanwalker.net.
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