A 64-year-old metal artist based in Livingston scours the backroads of Texas in search of his wares. He attends trade days, auctions, and swap meets to obtain what he seeks: rustic and rusty industrial scrap such as plow discs, old tools, and jewelry from yesteryear.
“At a young age I became a rusty metal connoisseur,” artist Corby Skiles declared to The Epoch Times.
The former church pastor-turned-artist has spent a lifetime living in different U.S. states working in different trades but now calls Texas home. For years, he’s been building colossal sculptures out of old, rusty metal—combining a Western motif and a penchant for big beasts to create life-sized longhorn bulls, grandiose horses, bears, and buffalo.
That rusty metal would become the medium for his reclaimed “environmental art.”
Skiles found his calling as a sculptor of large animals in a roundabout way. After suffering a back injury in 2009 and undergoing several operations, his doctor advised finding an activity to keep moving, stretch his muscles, and stimulate the mind. “I remember seeing a sculpture in a magazine created from old metal,” he said. “I had an understanding of recycled metal, but I had never welded before. I thought, ‘What a way to stretch!’”
The rest, as they say, is history.
The consummate sculptor acquired his skill set from sources scattered across the country. Originally from Illinois, Skiles lived in Venice Beach, California; Wisconsin; and Ohio; before settling in Texas. On the journey, Skiles had instructors: his grade school art teacher; a beach artist in Venice Beach; his uncle, a furniture builder; and fabricators at a weld shop. All the while, his metal collecting hobby persisted—Skiles created his first work at age 10: a metal pig platter which, for 50 years, his mom proudly hung on her kitchen wall.
That platter now hangs in the artist’s own kitchen.
Fast forward a half a century-plus; Skiles recently welded a life-size Texas longhorn bull sculpture, which found a home in front of Long Branch Restaurant and Steakhouse, off Highway 59, and was posted on his Instagram page. Other metal amalgamations of his can be seen on the page, including a proud, Leonardo-esque monumental horse, currently on display outside a gated Texas estate.
The massive works are aesthetically impressive. Huge round plow discs comprise bulging rib cages and rumps—suggesting beasts of war combatively donning armor—and convey an imposing sense of weight. Other found objects, like wrenches, old padlocks, chains, pipe, nuts, and bolts, are transformed into fur, tendons, protruding joints, hair, and horns—lending an industrial, steampunk feel to Skiles’s animals; their faithfulness to realism and anatomy is convincing enough for the roadside; and like the antique farm equipment from which they’re made, the rustic, rust-covered motif ties into the Wild West theme.
Pieces from Skiles’s metal menagerie hang on walls and adorn backyards, enhancing gardens; they decorate living rooms, kitchens, and of course his Instagram page; his works were also featured at Saatchi Art Gallery in Santa Monica. Skiles is also the creative force behind Texas Metal Creations in Livingston.