Metalhoma: A Three Dimensional Journey

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Metalhoma: A Three Dimensional Journey

By Mindy Ragan Wood

Three dimensional artist Christie Hackler’s latest work is on display at the Project Box Community Art Space in Oklahoma City’s Paseo District. Using a variety of metals and processes, her productions are as moving as they are colorful and striking.

Her current body of work, “FOR/give: A Migratory Experience,” focuses on freedom from the burdens of regret, pain, and the unchangeable past.

While Hackler has always enjoyed working with her hands, her work as an artist didn’t dawn as a child prodigy in art class but later in life as a need to process the sorrow of loss and trauma. After the sudden death of her 6-year-old son to meningococcal disease in 1996, depression followed grief until an opportunity to express her pain in art came along.

“My very kind and supportive husband bought me a kiln. Never having tried ceramics, I was pretty intimidated by the beast and it sat in our garage for months before I had the energy to pursue reading the directions,” said Hackler.

She took a class at the University of Central Oklahoma in ceramics but it wasn’t until she met 3D art professor Charleen Weidell, her “metal momma,” that she was exposed to metal work.

“My path has been all over the place from drawing, painting, design, cooking, sewing, sculpting and ceramics but once metal got in my blood it made sense to me why I always loved the hardware store and power tools. The nature of metal suits my strong will and Type-A personality. It holds a permanence that I think I seek, and maybe because of my loss, I yearn for its stability.”

While she admits loss is ever present in her work, it is often viewed with other perspectives.

“I hope that what is received from the viewer is a story of acceptance, change, and positivity for the future,” she said. “I feel that art has the ability to be an unspoken language that reaches past the mind and sinks into the soul of a person. I find that sometimes people don’t know why they like a piece and that it evokes a visceral reaction which quietly touches a memory or place that hopefully gives them peace.”

With her son’s memory ever near, Hackler has yet found joy in other aspects that emerge in her work. She enjoys exploring how “we detach ourselves to our life experiences, religious issues, ideologies, and societal concepts.”

The confessed process driven artist said her work is guided by a concept or message consistently from the female experience and voice.

“My work is very feminine,” she said, “in that it speaks from a female perspective. I think this voice comes from me being raised in an all-male household and then raising four boys. I wouldn’t say that my work is necessarily feminist, but my intention is to show the strength and perseverance of the female spirit.”

Methods to her productions include welding, soldering, and brazing. Her work with copper and silver show the processes of construction, fold forming, raising and patina.

“Additionally I love vitreous enamel and the wide variety of techniques you can use with metal,” she said. “Enamel is glass particles fired onto the metal in a 1450 degree kiln. I love the saturated and broad color palette that the enamel gives the metal. I like the multi-stepped process of taking the metal from the industrial state to shaping and forming it to bring about a feminine quality. The firing gives me a charge of excitement when it comes out brightly colored and shiny.”

Her ability to capture the message and emotion within others can be seen especially in one particular piece she mentioned, which was commissioned by a person who lost their home in a tornado.

“It was conceived from the idea of a dragon’s breath spewing out negative energy away from the owner’s home after it was hit by a tornado a few years ago,” she said. “The piece is made of steel tubing and formed steel holders which house large red, orange, yellow, and clear glass pieces made by Blue Sage Studio in Oklahoma City.”

Other commission works include a nickel plated chandelier that holds two miles of nickel chain.
“This piece was my first attempt at working with ferrous metals and I feel it was a true turning point in my work,” she said.

She continues to draw and paint, but it doesn’t seem to be in harmony with her nature.
“It’s pretty painful for me. I think that too much sitting bores me and I find that metal work, whether swinging a hammer, welding or grinding is similar to a moving mediation,” she said. “The physicality of metal work, while challenging for my 108 pound frame, pushes me to stay present in the process.

Hackler hopes her latest work, “FOR/give: A Migratory Experience,” evokes inspiration to let go of the past with its regrets and pain; to embrace change and the promise of tomorrow. This is perhaps best illustrated in the 3D butterflies she created.

“The butterfly doesn’t give a care! She frolics about and does not carry the weight of her past. She floats upon the wind, lays her eggs amongst the milkweed and when it is her time to pass, her offspring takes up the journey. So it is with this symbolism that I find meaning to my own experience,” she said.

Hackler is also advancing the work of other artists. She is founder and president of FRINGE, a metro based community art organization dedicated to group shows for women in the Oklahoma City metro area.

FOR/give:
A Migratory Experiment

Growing up the granddaughter of a prominent Oklahoma preacher I was “raised up” in “the church,” which was code word for the Church of Christ or otherwise known as the exclusive church whose devoted and loyal brothers and sisters would be the only ones lovingly welcomed in the ever lasting and forgiving arms of Jesus Christ, their eternal personal savior, whose love and grace has cleansed them of their earthly sins and atrocities which hath been purged from the Devil himself!

Can I get an AMEN!?!…OK, now that I’ve set the stage…FOR/give is a show, which focuses on the beauty of letting go and setting free the attachments we have to our past.

Christie Hackler

The Project Box is located at 3003 Paseo Drive in Oklahoma City where her work is currently displayed. For more information about Hackler’s work, visit metalhoma.com.

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