El Anatsui: Generator of Ideas

Photo by See-ming Lee

Photo by See-ming Lee.


When Ghanaian/Nigerian artist El Anatsui spoke at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor in conjunction with his retrospective show “When I last wrote to you about Africa,” on exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, he gave the most succinct explanation of what it means to be an artist at the head of a large studio. His studio has 30 people.

“It allows you to make much more work,” he said. “The artist becomes more of a generator of ideas.” Indeed.

His signature and current series of work involves crimping, piercing and hooking together with wire many thousands of aluminum caps from liquor bottles. The final result is sort of a folky chain mail that glimmers and folds like a robe painted by Klimt.

These works may have started as quilt-sized wall hangings, but now because of the many hands at work in his shop and his recent rise to fame on the world art stage, they are monumental in scale.

Part of the take-away for me is that if you have an idea that works, let yourself think big and then bigger still. Find people to help you pull it off: friends, family, art students looking for an internship. Who do you know who can help you?

By stepping away from having your hands on every part of the creative process, you can expand your impact.



Creative Commons License
Both photos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Digital Strategy Sessions - Clarify online strategy, streamline systems, and detangle tech
Avatar photo

About Ben Forgey

Ben Forgey (www.benforgey.com) creates organic forms from materials found in nature. His finished pieces, particularly those assembled from driftwood, often convey a floating effect that resonates with their origins in the flux and flow of rivers and oceans.

“The underpinnings of my professional education are many: The vast landscapes and arching skies of New Mexico; the wild waters and grasses of the desert itself; the exotic shapes of pinon roots and cottonwood branches; the endurance of the neighboring pueblo people and descendants of Spanish settlers; the sustaining love of friends and family. From these sources, I’ve learned to see beneath surfaces, to discover underlying structures, to honor the suspended movement of natural objects.”

Forgey’s work experience includes designing and building all of the furniture for four outlets of The Range Café restaurant in and around Albuquerque. In the late 1990s, Forgey worked for a year in Italy, where he was awarded four gallery shows and created more than 150 pieces of furniture and sculpture. In 2001, Forgey returned to Europe to hold a show in Barcelona, Spain.

In 2011 the State of New Mexico purchased three of Forgey’s sculptures to hang in public buildings in Alamagordo and Ruidoso.

Born in 1964 in Washington, DC and raised in Waterford, Virginia, Forgey graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia with a major in history. Since 1990, Forgey has lived primarily in New Mexico, but considers his recent move to Michigan a chance to broaden his work and its exposure.

1 Comment

  1. Letting the Ideas Find You - Pyragraph on November 15, 2016 at 8:55 am

    […] about going there to watch people in adjoining apartments have sex. In January when researching a post about the artist El Anatsui, I discovered he was displaying his largest work, “Broken Bridge,” this winter on […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.