Chris Cole's kinetic sculptures are fantastic mechanical creatures that capture the imagination with their beauty and movement. If you have had the pleasure of seeing one, chances are you were left wondering how they were made. There is a relatively simple answer to that question that involves bike and motorcycle parts, and welding and painting, but the truth is, each and every piece is a direct result of the artist's exceptional personal story.
From a very young age, Cole knew he wanted to be an artist. He started out sketching and painting, and each life experience added to his skillset. His interest in bikes was sparked during his grade school years in Omaha, Neb., where he was part of the school desegregation efforts.
Every day Cole was bussed to a school that was primarily attended by African American children, "The kids there were really into their bikes—taking care of them and decorating them—that's what they did for recreation. I thought it was really cool," says Cole, "I gravitated towards that." What started out as a new hobby that seemed to have nothing to do with art would eventually lead to a career as a bike mechanic and a cutting-edge artist.
Cole's family eventually moved to Laramie, Wyo., where he attended high school and met the late Tim Collins, an exceptional teacher who created an art program that allowed any child who was interested to do art. "It was one of those amazing things...when a teacher actually takes you in and says, 'I'll teach you anything you want to know,'" says Cole. Because of Collins, Cole had the chance to use art supplies that he wouldn't have had a means to otherwise, such as oil and acrylic paints and canvasses.
After high school, Cole took a few college classes at a university in Bozeman, Mont., but quickly realized that wasn't the path for him and started working as a bike mechanic instead. Then one day while visiting Seattle with his wife, he stumbled upon a kinetic sculpture on display in a gallery. "It was a very simple... but it fascinated me and I thought, 'Why am I throwing all of these bike parts away?'" He immediately went home, started collecting spare bike parts, and began trying his hand at kinetic sculptures.
Cole's first kinetic sculpture took a year to make and was what he describes as an "abstract machine." Over the course of 18 years the sculptures evolved and began taking forms that people could recognize, including fish, birds and dogs. Five years ago he began adding paint and everything came together. "It's come full circle...being a painter, then a mechanic, then building the mechanical sculpture and now I'm painting the mechanical sculpture," Cole explains. "It's becoming more fun the more I infuse my whole life experience into the pieces."
Cole's mechanical sculptures have been featured in a Barneys of New York Christmas display, and are now on display at the airport in Redmond. Each one tells the story of the relationship between the mechanical world and the natural world, but more importantly, each one tells the story of the evolution of an artist.
Chris Cole Kinetic Sculpture Art Installation
Redmond Municipal Airport
2522 SE Jesse Butler Cir. Suite 17, Redmond