Who: My name is Micajah Bienvenu. I am 56 years old. I have been a professional artist for over 34 years and focused on monumental public art for the past 20 years.
What: I am best known for my graceful twisting and turning sculptures made from carefully crafted stainless-steel sheet metal. My work is meant to inspire and uplift. I believe art should make us feel better. With its emphasis on curves, lines and seams, my work has been described as 3-D abstract paintings.
When: I studied sculpture at Whitman College in Walla Walla and have been creating ever since.
Where: I currently live and work on San Juan Island with my wife, Amy, and daughter, Ava. You can see my latest public art installation on the South Seattle College campus in West Seattle. Smaller works, including some of my latest 3-D printed pieces, are on display at the Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park’s “Summer Moments” show on Camano Island.
Why: The main focus of my work is creating site-specific sculptures. But sometimes I’m inspired to create a sculpture untethered from a place. These are the products of thoughts, feelings and emotions — the ephemeral frozen, the idea solidified. The intent is to excite, inspire and elicit reactions of wonder and “wow.” I’m inspired by forms found in nature and science. I particularly love the fluidity of form found in the natural environment such as vines, tree roots, water currents and the paths of subatomic particles.
How: My entire process starts within a 3-D modeling program called Rhino 3D, which I have been using since 1998. It has become such an integral part of my process that I have come to think and create in terms of the program’s commands. I even dream I’m in the software, exploring forms while sleeping, unencumbered by the thought process. This is the time for happy accidents. My design process is used to explore ideas relevant to the particular subject and site. Ideas and concepts are developed, refined, reiterated, rendered and engineered for fabrication. Once the sculpture is thoroughly modeled, the parts are digitally unrolled and imported into another program that generates the g-code (go code) that drives my CNC plasma cutter (which is basically a huge plotter with a plasma cutter attached). Once cut, the parts are textured before assembly. This is achieved by physically running up and down the sheet metal pieces with a 9-inch disk sander in a controlled frenzy, interpreting the shapes and putting interwoven “motion marks” that are sympathetic to the form. These pieces are reassembled using what I call the “reverse banana peel” method. The panels are tack-welded at the base, then coerced and persuaded together with ratchet straps and clamps. Once assembled, the seams are TIG-welded together, sanded and attached to bases or plinths. Packing, shipping and installation is always an exciting and rewarding endeavor when working on pieces 25 to 30 feet tall, because it often involves semi-trucks, cranes and hard hats.
Favorite Piece: As hard as it is to choose one’s favorite child, “Enlighten” — which is my latest piece of public art commissioned by the Washington State Arts Commission — is a particular favorite. “Enlighten,” a monumental and interactive stainless steel sculpture, is composed of three spiral columns that rise from a stainless steel turntable. The viewer can rotate this base to create a dynamic visual experience. It serves as a focal point and gathering place for the South Seattle College community. The sculpture celebrates community, inclusivity and inspiration.
— Evan Thompson, The Herald
Micajah Bienvenu’s steel sculpture exhibition, “Summer Moments,” is on display through Aug. 11 at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park at 2345 Blanche Way, Camano Island. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday and by appointment. Call 360-387-2759. See more of Bienvenu’s work at www.micajahbienvenu.com.
An artist on exhibit
This story is part of an occasional series in which local artists share the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How on their creative careers — plus the story behind their favorite original artwork. Do you know an artist worthy of a feature in the Good Life section? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.