For Larry Brackney, the purpose of his art is simple: make people smile.
And most of them do, he said, when they see the collection by him and wife Marilyn of fanciful faces, cobbled together from discarded trays, knobs, bolts and all manner of knickknacks.
About three years ago Brackney began constructing the happy creatures, which he calls Garden Guards, intended to grace outdoor spaces. He and Marilyn were looking for art for their farmers market booth that would be fun to make and that would appeal to gardeners who frequent the market. Brackney said he had seen similar pieces before at other markets, and decided to give it a whirl.
“We began haunting antique stores, scrap yards, yard sales, flea markets,” said Brackney. “Just about any place in the area you could get junk, we were there.”
Brackney said he was intent on making the faces durable and weather-resistant, so they can stand watch over their owners’ gardens for years to come.
“I didn’t want to glue things, since glue will deteriorate in the sun,” he said. “So I started drilling holes and wiring things and hammering them in.”
His collection has since broadened since to include faces constructed from upside-down teapots and put on posts — dubbed “Potstickers” — and palm-sized wire bugs accented with old beads and other found objects.
Brackney said his farm upbringing has influenced his pieces. He spent a lot of time on farms repairing broken equipment, or imagining new uses for discarded items.
“I have always liked figuring out how to put things together,” Brackney said. “I am basically a frustrated engineer.”
Brackney’s pieces, which range in price from $12 to $45, are currently available at Double Oak Farm in Columbus, 1120 Washington St.
After working as a teacher, and then director of technology for BCSC, what made you make the leap to more artistic pursuits?
My wife is an artist. We’ve been married for 46 years. Over the years, she’s always encouraged me to do creative things, like drawing or painting — whatever I was interested in. She has taught me to look at things for what they could be, not for what they are.
How long does each face take?
It’s a three-phase project. First, you find the junk. Then you lay it out on a bench and rearrange the pieces until it looks right. Then you start putting it together. The assembly only takes about an hour-and-a-half to two hours. I probably make between 200 and 300 for a farmers’ market season.
You must spend a lot of time shopping.
Because I don’t want the prices to be too high, we have to be pretty selective about the pieces we buy. The first year, we went shopping and bought boxes and boxes of stuff. I could make faces for years from that stuff. But I am always looking for pieces to mix with what I already have.