I set out to explore the role of craftsmanship in the academic and artistic worlds. I have been working on a Harley Davidson 883 Sporster from 1991 to do so. In the world of contemporary art, finality and veneer mask work of subcontracted craftsmen and women while artists receive praise for larger than life works constructed by others. In academia, physical labor is largely ignored as a genuine and intensive form of intellectual exercise and expression. In an attempt to address the dichotomy between craft, and the combination of high-art and academics, I have been building components of the motorcycle that do not hide the marks of the craftsmanship that I put into them, welds are left unfilled, hammer dents in steel are unmasked by paint or finishes. By introducing this product of my own hands into an academic setting, and by showing it as a functional piece of art I am hoping to ignite conversation around the importance of craft, the disenfranchisement of craftsmanship, and the inherent beauty of object that are made by hand with intensive thought and care being put into them.
The photos in this post are of the process of building a gas tank from 14 gauge sheet steel. Through roughly 70hrs of cutting, bending, hammering, welding, heating, and forming the steel I created both a practical/functional gas tank, and a piece of sculpture. The resulting product is one part of many that will go into making this motorcycle a statement that hopefully exceeds the boundaries of a ‘custom bike’ or a ‘example of mechanic work’.