Arts Craft Arts

Feature Artist: John Guciardo

From front to back: Circle of Love; Blue Note; Voyager. John Guciardo, artist. Photo by Drew Gaddis

By Gina Malone

His first time working with metal, John Guciardo recalls, involved an attempt to turn his bicycle, a Schwinn Sting-Ray, into a chopper. He hacksawed the forks (the parts that hold the front wheel) from his brother’s bicycle and pounded them onto the front of his. “Fortunately, my brother had outgrown his old bike, and spared me,” he says. “But the first bump I hit wasn’t so forgiving.”

Guciardo grew up in Cleveland, OH, and remembers the “industrial bowels” of the city. “I found the black iron bridges, steel mills and ore boats sounding their horns things of beauty,” he says. When it came time for college, he chose San Francisco State and studied metal sculptors—Alexander Calder, Julio González and David Smith, among them. “Soon after college, I found a studio space and began to really learn,” he says, “making unique tables, chairs and abstract artworks.”

John Guciardo, artist. Photo by Drew Gaddis

Guciardo likens his search for materials in metal yards to beachcombing or treasure hunting. Once he has an idea, the physical work of grinding, welding and finishing come into play. “These well-practiced activities—and a good imagination—have enabled me to create life-sized giraffes and horses from recycled bits and pieces,” he says.

Just as the metal infrastructure of places where he has lived has been important to him, so have the sounds: foghorns, bells, train whistles. His intention is that his sculptures offer viewers an interactive experience as well as an invitation for reflection. He invites people to see, hear and play his art. “Circles are a metaphorical motif I use in my work,” he says. “In my ‘big picture,’ we are all one, connected. And, like my bells, we are all in the center and want to sing out and be heard.”

Guciardo moved to Asheville in 2000. The industrial history of the River Arts District, still evident in many of the buildings, evoked his own childhood neighborhoods and offered inspiration. “Asheville’s vibrant art and music scene, the beautiful mountains and the four seasons make it a perfect fit,” he says.

Artist Leslie Rowland, owner of Gallery COR, says that she wasn’t ready to bring in sculpture when she first opened the gallery a year ago. As soon as she was, however, Guciardo was the first sculptor that came to mind. “I’ve been an admirer of his work for years,” she says. “His work is not just distinctive; it’s interactive and functional. He’s using reclaimed metal to create contemporary indoor/outdoor bells that have an absolutely transformative sound. We’re just thrilled to have John’s work at Gallery COR.”

New works on exhibit at Gallery COR conjure up a sense of adventure, including Voyager, which, Guciardo says, “captures the curve of a sail against a blue sky” and features “rope rigging” and a sunny yellow bell. “Another, the massive Royal Blue bell embodies a well-worn, yet stately spirit,” he says. “It, too, has an amazing tone and would handsomely grace any landscape.”

Gallery COR is located at 19 Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Learn more at GalleryCOR.com, or on Facebook or Instagram.

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