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CORY FUHR: Metal Intuition
Vernon sculptor chosen to create high-profile gift.
By Portia Priegert
The Giller Prize is one of Canada’s top literary honours. But Cory Fuhr, an emerging sculptor from the B.C. Interior, also did well for himself at the award ceremony last November. Fuhr’s life-sized polished-steel sculpture of a writer working at his typewriter was presented to Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch, who founded the prize a decade ago in memory of his late wife, the literary journalist Doris Giller.
Fuhr, 31, built the sculpture, Couldn’t Sleep, by welding together old car gears, wrenches and textured sheet metal. He also stripped down an old Royal typewriter from his antique collection.
“It’s a piece about inspiration — it’s about that writer who awakens in the middle of the night, or who couldn’t sleep to begin with, and just has to finish that chapter or chapters that are just screaming to get out,” says Fuhr. “So it’s about three or four in the morning and he’s at his side table, pounding away on his old manual typewriter. The piece is set in the older industrial era of the ’40s or ’50s when there were manual typewriters and writers had that connection with the machinery and there wasn’t that software buffer. Typewriters had their own personalities and maybe an ‘r’ that jumps around a little bit or a bad ‘e’ or something like that.”
Fuhr was invited to the literary award ceremony in Toronto, quite a change from his normally reclusive life on a small farm near Vernon. “It felt like the Oscars,” he recalls. “It was all tuxes and gowns. It was great.”
Fuhr, a former tree planter, has been creating his metal sculptures for about seven years. His first one was a gargoyle for the roof of a hair salon in Vernon. Entirely self-taught, he had only done a little welding at that point and regularly injured himself. But he has since become a pro at wielding his chop saw, mig welder and industrial-strength grinder. He now sells his intriguing sculptures through the Elliott Louis Gallery in Vancouver, the Art Ark in Kelowna and the Engine Gallery in Toronto.
Fuhr’s work has attracted overwhelming interest that cuts a broad cross-section from wealthy art collectors to blue-collar workers, says Ted Lederer of the Elliott Louis Gallery. “There’s a delicacy and a balance to the work that belies the fact that he’s using this heavy, gross material. He’s got this fineness and balance and an intuitive sense of anatomy represented within these sculptures that’s just a marvel to behold.”
Fuhr focuses on the human form, but has created everything from a giant funky spider with legs made from metal tubing to elegantly crafted musical instruments. He builds his pieces from the inside out, visualizing his form mentally as he adds chunks of metal from his scrap pile.
“The end result is always a surprise, even to me,” he says. “There’s an evolution. It just takes on its own angle and its own personality as you go along.”
Cory Fuhr's work will be exhibited at the Elliott Louis Gallery this spring, and June 12 to July 30 at The Art Ark Gallery in Kelowna.
Portia Priegert, a writer and artist, is director of the Alternator Gallery for Contemporary Art in Kelowna, B.C.