Q & A

Q: “How do you make these? Is that ‘real’ rust?”

RGB: Yes. It’s real rust.

I encourage it with all sorts of processes (scraping, scratching, grinding, etc.) as well as natural and artificial substances. For example, I might use muriatic acid on one area and then rub over that with a grapefruit (from the tree by my studio). This will encourage one type and/or color of rust. I also remove or reduce rust with everything from a grinder to a pencil eraser to electrical current. Whatever it takes, and usually over and over. Read more about the rust art process.

Q: “How do you fold the “crease pattern” pieces?”

All folds are made with elbow grease, by hand and by foot and with simple tools. It’s as crude as you can image. Sheet metal can become extremely hot from the daytime sun, and large sheets are very sharp along the edges and corners and it becomes very “springy” when you try and fold it.  To avoid burns and to try and guard against severing a limb, I wear heavy leather gloves and, if I’m not too impatient, thick pants and a coat.  Every single time, there’s a part of the process that prompts ghoulish visions of major injury and meditations centered on “what is the point of art?” “is this art worth risking a major injury?” “why me, why this?”

I don’t use a brake because those create very “clean” straight folds that are not my aesthetic. Once I’ve made several folds so that the metal is now multiple layers “thick,” I often will need to use clamps and 2×4’s to get enough leverage to start another fold. Once a fold is underway, I then will stomp and pound it to get it tighter, followed by driving back and forth over it with our truck.

Even harder than folding is unfolding. Again, it just requires hard work.

Q: “What kind of care do your Rust Art pieces require?”

RGB: The same as a nice oil painting.

Most of the images must be kept indoors in a relatively arid environment (i.e., not in your bathroom).  On some pieces, portions are “sealed” and other areas are left untreated. This encourages subtle changes over time and is part of the art.

Just like oil paintings, these should not be touched with bare hands. The sweat and the oil on your fingers is actually corrosive. If a piece is unsealed, touching it can change the rust that is already on the piece or start rust on any bare steel. When properly hung, these pieces are as rugged and long-lasting as an oil painting.

Q: “How long does it take to make one of your Rust Art pieces?”

RGB: I have created my own techniques for encouraging rust and I’m continuously researching and experimenting with ways to speed up and control corrosion and patination. Some of these techniques can produce changes right before your eyes.

Many pieces, however, take over a year to get the sort of rust that I like. I have several that I have been working on (and off) for over five years. One reason I enjoy rust art is that the rust itself is doing a huge part of the “work.” It’s a collaboration, a dance (and sometimes a fierce battle) with rust. 

Q: “How do I hang the large heavy pieces?”

Hanging the pieces is easy. I used to hunt around for a stud, but that is a hassle and the stud is often off-center from where I want the piece to hang. So, for easiest thing to use is a simple heavy-duty dry wall hook. These sell in the local hardware store for $6. You just drill or punch a 1/4″ hole through the drywal (make sure no stud is behind). Then just push in the hook, tap in three nails, and done. I have used these for at least 5 years now and never had any problem.

Q: “Do you make pieces on commission?”

RGB: Yes. But, I’ve only done that once. I might do it again, but you have to be okay with the fact that rust does its own thing.

The majority of pieces start out with some intention and end up quite different because the rust, itself, makes demands. For example, I’m a Believer was a picture of a beautiful woman, but as it rusted, it turned into something very different. It’s beautiful in its own way, but if it was a commissioned portrait, you might not be happy.

Q: Where is your “artist statement?”

RGB: I find 99% of those disturbing. Still, as a good citizen I have an ongoing archive of these things appended below.

Other questions? Email me and I will post answers here.


Artist Statements – In alternative  & additive:

The R in my name should be short for “Rust,” but Father Flanagan’s predecessors wouldn’t listen.

I am obsessed with ferrous metals (and a bit with copper). The honesty of metal is through and through. It is what it it, and you meet it on its own terms. At the same time, its surface tells its varied history. The beauty and terror of oxidation and patination is as deep and complex as the universe itself. Rust is relentless.

I repeatedly believe that rust is a living organism, perhaps the missing link between inorganic and organic. It could well be the secret to life. Then I disbelieve.

Rust is an outsider. Rust lives by its own rules and evades control. It lives forever, and always gets the upper hand. It has nothing to fear, so along the way it loves to taunt, play, and display.

Could we work together?

No answer… but a twinkling invitation to experimentation. No holds barred. Honesty and trickery are thus equally valued and welcomed.

I form rust, follow rust, guide it, use subtle sleight of hand techniques, and the most caustic chemicals imaginable. This has evolved to a dangerous collaboration.

-= rg boire

About the Work

99% of “artist statements” irritate me. This makes it hard for me to talk about my work. I’d prefer to be invisible and to say nothing. With that disclaimer so stated…

All of my “work” uses iron as a major component – usually steel (iron+carbon). By mass, iron is the most common element on earth. It’s a coating on the outside “crust” of the earth and is also at the very center of the earth. At the center of the earth, this iron (and nickel) is as hot as the surface of the sun. Think about that.

When iron is exposed to oxygen and a bit of moisture, as it is here on earth, it physically converts to rust (iron oxide). Given enough time, ALL iron on earth will convert to rust and completely disintegrate.

-= rg boire