Tin Man

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    Photo: Ron Lee/The Silver Factory
Welded found metal
81 x 54 x 37 inches
Collection of
The Studio Museum in Harlem
Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Charlie Lucas descends from six generations of identified craftspersons—blacksmiths, basketmakers, quilters, ceramicists, and woodcarvers. Lucas's Tin Man may be appreciated purely as a skilled deployment of welded steel bars mobilizing as a human figure walking unsteadily but determinedly. However, the placement of bent metal objects forming a C and an L, and the title, anoint this work as an image of personal transformation. In the mid-1980s the artist had suffered a traumatic, work-related injury that left him unable to perform manual labor. Upon recovery, he rechristened himself the "Tin Man" and dedicated his life to art malting. Tin Man is the image of that rebirth as an artist; the assured splindliness of the sculpture's many legs replays the artist's physical recovery and his artistic progress in those early years.