Scott Cawood peered closely at his sculpture — the figure of a woman — and tinkered with the elbow. He looked intent, focused.
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"This is about the third assemblage I've had on her elbow," he said. "I've taken two of them off. I didn't like them."
Cawood, 59, a sculptor who works in metal, is working on a commission — oversize figures of a man and a woman lifting up a baby. The figures are lifelike and muscular, but semi-mechanical. They're intended to show a synthesis of natural and mechanical parts. When complete, the sculpture will stand in the new office of The Center for Joint Surgery and Sports Medicine, near Hagerstown.
With this piece, Cawood said he's pushing into new artistic territory. Most of his art has centered on using found objects — birds made with saw blades and windshield wipers or women's shoes made of textured steel plate and pizza cutters. His work was clever and whimsical. People loved it.
But Cawood said he wanted to express something deeper, more emotional.
"It's not a matter of going, 'Oh, OK,' (and following assembly directions). It's like I've evolved down to where I'm at," he said. "This has been a magical mystery tour."
Show and tell
Cawood opens his studio near Sharpsburg to the public on the first Saturday of each month from noon to 5 p.m. He shows visitors his work — completed pieces and works still in process. He talks about art. He talks about history. He talks about life.
In particular, Cawood likes talking about his work, about his thought process, about his materials.
"In a gallery, I don't feel people know what I do. When I go to explain it, I say, 'This (skin) is one of those 275-gallon oil tanks.' But you can see I lost them. They just go (blank-faced)," he said. "Here, I just march them over here and put their hand on it, and they go, ‘Oh!' The light comes on. In the gallery, they're just confused."
Cawood's home and studio-shed are low-key. The gleaming, 8-foot-tall commissioned sculpture is surrounded by shelves of dull gray and rust-red scrap metal — chains, gears, rods, hammer heads, engine parts and more. Door frames, fuel tanks, industrial equipment and other scrap metal objects wait outside the shed.
Found-object sculptures are displayed in Cawood's rustic house and compact garden. A scarecrow made from a shovel and engine parts. A dragon-head gas tank for a motorcycle made from industrial steel shelving. An owl made from mechanical springs.
Everywhere is art or the rough, raw materials for art.
Conversation and education
Cawood likes the informal approach to his open studio.
"Some people come here and they're disappointed. They're expecting some nice place," he said. "These two women came one time, and ... they walked in, and they said, 'This is it? This is just junk. Don't you have a gift shop?'"
There is no gift shop, Cawood said with a laugh. Many of his pieces are for sale, and he's sold several during open studio sessions. Cawood also raises money for local food banks. For a $15 donation to Maryland Food Bank, he gives small, original sculptures.
But Cawood isn't trying to get rich. His biggest thrill is talking about his art.
"Most people who come are astonished. They suck in their breath," he said. "Some people come back and they bring other people with them. The people who come back are the people who are interested. In a gallery, it's like talking to a wall. Here, they get it. They're interested."