Bike mechanics and fine art collide

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Photo by Katya Agatucci | Attendees of the opening view a series of acrylic pieces that Cole made on canvas. These pieces were inspired from science fiction and underwater plants.

By Aidan Hinckle | The Broadside (Contact: ahinckle2@cocc.edu)

Elaborate animals composed of various metals, industrialized kinetic sculptures, and psychedelic paintings all with a passing resemblance to bicycle mechanics.

Photo by Katya Agatucci | The Broadside (Contact: kagatucci@cocc.edu) | One of Cole’s metal work pieces titled “Stanley.” The piece is made out of salvaged motorcycle and bicycle parts, salvaged steel, hand cut and formed steel, and laser cut steel. This piece was made in 2015.

These are what you will find in Bend artist Chris Cole’s gallery titled, “When Things Work,” running from November second through December first in the Pence/Pinckney Gallery at COCC’s Bend campus.

Self-taught, Cole began doing art as a teenage painter in the Northwest, influenced by abstract themes and the wilderness he was surrounded by throughout his childhood. In the mid to late 90’s, Cole started working with kinetics and metal sculpting, the method for which he is now widely recognized.

This style began as a fixation with tinkering, “I’ve always been a person who just likes to grab the stuff and try it myself… A lot of these are just kind of experiments, and I did a lot of experimentation before I got into doing more of the finished pieces,” Cole said.

Photo by Katya Agatucci | The Broadside (Contact: kagatucci@cocc.edu) | A moving metal work piece titled “Jack.” This piece is made of salvaged steel, laser cut steel, hand cut and formed steel, bicycle chain, bicycle hubs, coffee grinder burrs, steel ball bearings, found objects, paint, electric light, and two electric motors. This piece was made in 2015.

He attributes his skill with metal and kinetics to his job as a mechanic. His talents lied mostly in the field of painting until working with bicycles aided him in conquering the challenges of working with elaborate metal contraptions and how they move.

“What helped me overcome those difficult phases was working in bike shops and being around all the tools,” Cole added.

He spends approximately a week to three or four months on each sculpture, drawing from both the natural world and the industrial world to create animal and kinetic sculptures, some of which move on their own.

One of Cole’s biggest accomplishments was producing a sculpture for the renowned high fashion department store Barney’s New York, the design was featured in their Christmas display on Madison Ave.

It was a trying process for Cole, who said, “It was unbelievable. To be honest, I had 2 and a half months to make that piece and have it installed. By the time they gave me the go ahead, I didn’t sleep very much.”

The piece, a giant talking owl titled “Patterson,” was required by Barney’s to move and tell Christmas tales for a month straight without repair; a stipulation that added pressure to an already significant task.

However, “Patterson” was a hit for celebrities and the general population alike. “It was amazing, stressful, exciting, and all that just to have that kind of exposure. Very few people get that,” Cole said.

Visit www.chriscoledesigns.com for more artwork and information on Cole. Contact local artist and art program coordinator Bill Hoppe at whoppe@cocc.edu for more on upcoming galleries and artwork at COCC. ■

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