Ironclad Art by Bob Cage

Vintage farm relics finds new life as sculpture.

| November 2007

A passion, almost a purpose in life, has led Bob Cage of South Boston, Va., to sculpt. Bob, a sculptor, painter and world champion tobacco auctioneer, recycles farm machinery: tools and parts that might otherwise head to the scrap yard or rust away without ever being used again.

"If I get enough of any one kind of material, I put it aside and some idea will come and I'll end up making something interesting out of it," Bob says. "But it won't necessarily be something you can relate to right off the bat. This is not an objective thing. The work calls for creative viewing."

Several times a year Bob conducts tours for students, teachers and art clubs. While visiting his sculpture farm, they view two fields of enormous sculptures made from farm machinery and other useful objects long forgotten by their users. The sculptures highlight new uses for hay rakes, wagon wheels, wrenches, plow points, round discs and tobacco carts.

Each person who views Bob's artwork sees something both familiar and unusual. "When kids come over, the teacher will tell them 'Write me something about it when you get back in school.' If the kids give five different answers as to what a piece is, it's more successful, to me, because that calls for the imagination of the individual," he says. "It's like an abstract painting. It's not supposed to tell you anything anymore than the song of a bird would tell you something."

Bob's work is on display in South Boston outside The Prizery arts building, as well as at locations in Richmond, Va., Washington, D.C., Danville, Va., Baltimore, Maysville, Ky., and Raleigh, N.C. He has shown his work at museums from Georgia to Maryland and has an international following.

Keeping an even balance

Bob works to maintain balance in his art. That is why he appreciates the circular shape of old wagon wheels and discs, the straight tines hanging from hay rakes and the angular lines of plow points.