Martin Puryear is a 79 year old sculptor who lives in New York. He has traveled the world to study art and craft traditions, and he has received many awards for his sculptures.
Sculptures by Martin Puryear have abstract shapes and forms. He often visited museums when he was growing up in Washington D.C. He found a love of art, organic materials, and nature. His father was a mail man, who loved building things from wood as a hobby.
Puryear began experimenting with wood as a teenager. He studied painting and printmaking in college and art school, but when he returned to the United States after living abroad for four years, he turned his attention to sculpture.
He learned craft traditions of many cultures when he lived in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and then in Sweden as a student. Wood carving, boat building, basket weaving, and furniture making are just a few of the crafts he loves.
Although he made a lot of art that looks similar to traditional baskets, he found ways to make them look enough like other things we know. This makes them very mysterious and interesting. Many of them look like shelters, traps or cages. Look at these images and think about these questions:
What is a trap, and why would someone build one?
What is a cage, and why would someone build one?
Can you think of reasons why Martin Puryear would want us to think about these structures when we see his work? What do you think inspired him?
Check out this video to hear about one of his most famous public sculptures:
In this project, you will use strips of cardboard, sticks, wood or any other material you have at home to create a sculpture that resembles a basket, shelter, trap or cage. Think of Martin Puryear's sculptures as inspiration, but experiment to make your project interesting to you. Watch this video to see the steps demonstrated by Ms. Ammons!