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Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 08:52 pm

The rose that grew from metal

Springfield man forges scraps into art

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Travis and Cindy Taylor with his Twin Towers.
R.L. Nave

Reactions of Travis Taylor’s friends and relatives to his artwork have ranged from admiration to puzzlement to, in the case of one piece, anger.

According to Cindy, his wife of 18 years, a family friend once remarked, “This isn’t about art, it’s about someone potentially wanting to buy a memento of a horrific attack to parade around like some war trophy.”

The controversial piece is sculpted from scrap metal from wreckage of the World Trade Center, felled in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Titled “Twin Towers,” the foot-tall sculpture consists of intertwined flowers perched atop identical rectangular cylinders. Their stems contain 20 thorns — nine on one, 11 on the other — and 13 leaves, representing the number of stripes on the U.S. flag.

After 9-11 much of the scrap material was shipped to countries in Asia for recycling. Some of it, however, including copper and brass and other non-ferrous metals, was sold to scrap dealers in the U.S., who then gave some to schools and to artists like Taylor.

For his part, Taylor isn’t concerned about his art becoming an addition to some al-Qaeda sympathizer’s collection because he isn’t interested in selling Twin Towers or any of the other dozen or so pieces he’s done.

“Money just hasn’t been a motivating force,” Taylor says, despite having received what he says are some pretty attractive offers.

Taylor’s entree to the art world came around age 13. That’s around the time he became interested in medieval weaponry and forged his first sword from the leaf spring of a junk car. Since then, the Mt. Sterling native has made more battle axes, spears, shields, bows and flails than he can count. On warm evenings, the Taylors invite friends over to hurl hatchets at logs in the backyard.

In fact, when he obtained the 9-11 metal his first inclination was to fashion a patriotic sword but after a while his tastes had changed. “I wasn’t in the mood to make a weapon,” says 37-year-old Taylor. However, he can’t always pinpoint the precise motivation for his creative bursts. “Sometimes current events provide inspiration other times, I’ll be making a hamburger or cooking mashed potatoes and I’ll have an epiphany.”

When he the motivation does strike, he can complete a piece in under two hours. Last year, the father of four made a miniature Wall-E robot replica. Other pieces include “Woe tree/Woe Gollum,” “Batman,” and “Witch Compass” (you can tell whether someone is a witch by looking through it, he tells his children).

Even though the Taylors are quickly running out of surfaces to display Travis’ sculptures in their Enos Park home, he winces at the suggestion that it may be time to part with some of them.

His wife looks at the situation differently. Travis puts too much of himself in his art for it go unrecognized, she says.

Says Cindy: “He can turn something that’s nothing into something that’s awesome.”

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