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Artist of the Month - September 2002

Keith Herrmann: Craft as Art
by Sydney Francis

Keith Herrmann gave me a great deal of his time; he wanted to thoroughly convince me that he was not a legitimate choice for this column. He spent at least an hour telling me why he was not an artist and giving me theory and examples to back his hypothesis. He also showed me the inventions of his craft and cunning (not to be confused with art, thank you very much). However, I must beg his pardon and reveal that Herrmann is a gifted and talented artist. He is a thinker and a synthesizer, who combines his passion for life and his rigorous thought process with skill and craft to create metalwork and a large variety of art of mixed media. It is time, Mr. Herrmann, to step into the limelight and expose yourself to the naked humility of your gifts.
The first thing that struck me was his home and business the Adobe Abode, a result of creativity, genius, and love. The Adobe Abode is an intricate system of art working in concert as a Bed and Breakfast, which Herrmann and his wife, Lori Bevan, built together. Herrmann designed the Adobe Abode, as he saw it clearly in his mind’s eye. On every surface and in every corner there is a creative expression of Hermann’s active mind and whimsical nature. Down to every last detail-the carved post and beam construction on the patio, the individualized tiles that cover the entire house, the hand placed rocks in the walls-are expressions of Herrmann’s art.

Literally the house is filled with Herrmann’s artwork: the furniture, the fixtures, the wall hangings, the metal work. And not just ordinary stuff, but entertaining and provocative objects filled with Herrmann’s insight and whimsy. For example, take the barbed wire bed, which stands in a room that is a tribute to barbed wire. He informed me that no barbed wire company has ever gone bankrupt. There are 10,000 varieties of barbed wire and that it has had a greater influence on the economics of the U.S. than the automobile or the train. But the entire room is filled with art, which celebrates this historically significant object-the barbed wire.
Herrmann told me that the above are examples of invention and cleverness, but not examples of art. I am going to beg to differ on this point, I believe the marriage of invention and cleverness in the medium of the creative is indeed the heart and soul of art. Art was never meant to be devoid of meaning, science, purpose, and Herrmann’s work epitomizes the happy union of creativity and function, knowledge and expression.
In contrast to the abundance of art, which is in the Adobe Abode, Hermann has an extensive range of metalwork shown all over town (and all over the U.S.). For example, Herrmann recently installed three distinct pieces at Star Hall that adorn the windows facing the courtyard. I was immediately reminded of Gothic architecture and stained glass windows of which lead me to sensations about spirituality and connection with the Divine. The window pieces are abstract expressions of starbursts. The circle in many cultures refers to the cosmological order of a system or the unity between all things. Similarly, images of the sun, moon, and the stars, in the history of Western art, signify the heavenly order. But I do not think my knowledge of art history is what arrested me about these window sculptures. There is something profound and powerful in the abstract simplicity of geometric shapes bursting forth with sharp spears, which fragment the window space on one hand, but give it unity and continuity on the other.

It is a peculiar and perhaps uncomfortable sensation in life to be recognized for your unique and special contribution to the world. In Herrmann’s case, his contribution is in his art, which he can call by the names of creativity, cleverness, and invention. But it is in his art, where he shares himself and his extraordinary talent fully.

Herrmann will be having a show of his work this month at Frivolous Necessities. A reception will be held as part of the ArtWalk on September 14, from 6- 9 p.m. In addition, his work is represented at several locations in town, including Moabilia, Treasure Haven, Western Image, Buck’s Grill House (new patio metalwork fence), and at the Red Cliffs Lodge.

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