Welded sculpture

Featured Artist Elmer Petersen

Nancy the Goat, Appx. 3.5’ long, Welded sheet steel by Elmer Petersen
Elmer’s sculpture shows considerable variety, and while some three-dimensional artists might have a greater bulk of work over a lifetime, he identifies himself as a sculptor. It wasn’t until his mid-twenties that he took himself seriously as a sculptor, and that was when he was introduced to welding as a medium of expression. He learned a new understanding of and respect for the role of materials and processes. In the 1950’s and prior, there wasn’t a great amount of welded sculpture around, and thereafter, not much figurative welded work. From welding the armature to creating volume similar to more traditional sculpture, he developed a style that had the look of the materials he worked with; sheet metal, a metal nibbler, a roller to curve the flat sheet metal and an oxy-acetylene welding torch. The look was of curved planes and weld lines that seemingly could exist on their own, one example is the “Gambrinus” sculpture shown in this article. The welds are a major contributing factor to the formal experience and contrast the way he worked on some other pieces, in which the welds were hardly discernible. In some works, he strives for a stone-like form, and utilized the welds to contribute to the texture of the piece as well as structural support.
His only commissions before 1974 were the “World’s Largest Buffalo” tourist attraction, made of steel and concrete and a “Good Shepherd” for Bowman, ND. Up to that time, he was going to school or teaching and using that support to make art, experiment, problem-solve, and learn. Usually he worked for a while with the same material or medium, such as found objects, which contributed their own forms to the creation. He also worked for approximately two years with found materials that he picked from an auto scrapyard.
In the future, he’ll work primarily in cast bronze since it weathers better than welded steel. His personal quest is to discover a distinctly personal form, perhaps using a variety of materials and processes he’s familiar with. He is considering making welded steel portions which would give hard looking planes, and then integrating modeled clay areas to add intricacy or contrasting form. Both could then be translated to bronze for the final work.
Finally, he would like the audience of his work to experience the form, and being able to describe the sculpture in other ways than just what the sculpture depicts. Consider the crystal, the piece of driftwood, or the pebble with its smooth shape and color patterns. (continued on page 4)
These are not picked up and saved because they look like representations of people or things, the form is the main attraction, and the subject.
Currently, Elmer is creating a large sculptural group - four 6’6” figures depicting a single hurdler in action. The subject is Olympic hurdler George Poage, who graduated salutatorian from La Crosse High School and earned a degree in History at UW-Madison. Poage was the first African-American man to medal in the Olympics, held in St. Louis in 1904. The city of La Crosse is naming a newly designed and restored neighborhood park after Poage, in which Elmer’s sculpture will be displayed, perhaps as soon as September 2015. To learn more about Elmer’s work, visit:

Nancy the Goat, Appx. 3.5’ long, Welded sheet steel by Elmer Petersen Bull Mirror, Appx. 4’ long, Chrome auto bumpers by Elmer Petersen Gambrinus, King of Beer, 8’ tall, Welded “Cor-Ten” steel by Elmer Petersen Bicentennial Monument, 27’x 17’ , Welded sheet steel, stainless steel background by Elmer Petersen Frank Lloyd Wright, 12” tall, Cast bronze by Elmer Petersen
Earth Woman (Katie), 4’ tall, Welded “Cor-Ten” steel by Elmer Petersen The La Crosse Players, Appx. 8’ tall, Welded “Cor-Ten” steel by Elmer Petersen Maquette for sculpture of George Poage, to be cast in bronze
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