Joe Segal Portrait 2013

I work with lumber as a starting point to create my sculptures because I think of this material as a metaphor for our relationship with nature: all of the variations and patterns in the wood are homogenized into the same dimensions to create usable beams. This act of harvesting and processing in order to create utility is the essence of our connection to the natural world.


Salvaged lumber is particularly interesting because of its history. The trees that were cut down to produce some of the timbers I use started growing hundreds of years ago and many of the buildings made from these beams stood for a century or longer. The buildings were demolished, the wood salvaged and then finally used to make sculpture.


A piece of wood is like a time capsule. Each ring that is seen on the wood's end grain represents a year: the passage of a cycle. We feel connected to wood not only by its ubiquity in our surroundings but because its lifespan is somewhat in synch with our own. In our lifetime we can see a sapling become a full-grown tree.  My reverence for this material compels me to create simple compositions. I don't feel a need for designs that are complicated or particularly diverse. I prefer to examine the ramifications of my actions with respect to the material's past. 


I work by making cuts across, or interrupting the wood's grain. The repetitive cuts are inspired by the cycles in nature that originally formed the sculptures' raw material. The precision of the cuts along with the symmetrical designs represents our need for order and understanding within the natural world.


My sculptures are observations of time passing. There is a notion that time is linear: the past is somewhere behind us while the future is farther ahead. There is also a cyclical concept of time: the sunrises and sets every day, the seasons come every year. These two ideas are illustrated by making organic sculptures that are divided with rectilinear elements.

It is my hope to create sculptures that combine contrasting elements in peaceful, meditative compositions that examine our relationship with the natural world and contemplate the most perplexing of human concerns: the passage of time.


Joe Segal, 2013