Friday, May 30, 2014

Brian Ackley

Here's the Found Artists exhibit text that was developed for Brian Ackley, along with some photographs taken on a visit to his shop in Deerfield Township, near Bridgeton.

Brian Ackley is the fifth generation to grow up on the family farm in Deerfield Township, though he hardly ever milked a cow.  Tapping an entrepreneurial spirit not uncommon among farmers, Brian’s grandfather had gotten hold of a small portable sawmill in 1947 and began sawing timber, which gradually morphed into the commercial operation that prospers yet today.  Brian grew up working in the mill, chainsaw in hand, shearing bark from logs and cutting them down to size for milling.  Handling wood on a daily basis, he became the wood’s familiar, noting and internalizing the many subtle variations of grade and grain.  So when his wife came home one day with a chainsaw carving of a bear, roughed out by a local carver, he was ready to claim, “Hell, I could do that!”  He carved one bear, then another, his skill developing well beyond that early framework.  Today, he carves simple or elaborate figures to order, ranging from Celtic Knots to tortilla factory avatars to whimsies sprung from his own head, such as an imaginative rendering of “Henry the Fifth Having Tea”.  When not on the road demonstrating at festivals and fairs, he makes forays onto local properties to transform standing stumps into his own blazing brand of figurative art.  Standing barefoot amidst the dust and danger of the spewing saw, he acquires a rough patina of chippings, embodying his own process; working with a nearby Native American tribe, he’s earned the wry honorific, “Walks with Ticks”.         

Brian Ackley with Sally Willowbee

Brian Ackely at Work

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