Defying the stereotype, Tom Joyce combines traditional blacksmithing with an innovative contemporary sensibility. His straightforward forms have a powerful presence and encourage contemplation. A continued interest for Joyce is the inherited history of his material of choice, iron. For this reason he often incorporates industrial remnants and iron refuse into his work. His Rio Grande Gates for the sculpture garden of the Albuquerque Museum of Art incorporate discarded metal ranging from car parts to nails, gathered along the banks of the Rio Grande by community members. More recently, Joyce forged steel from the World Trade Center into letters spelling a phrase from Virgil’s Aeneid for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Joyce became an apprentice to a blacksmith at age fourteen. Since opening his own studio in 1977, his repertoire has ranged from agricultural tools and household hardware to bowls, gates, furniture, and large-scale architectural ironwork and sculpture that have received international praise. In 2003, Joyce was honored with the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Grant. Today, Joyce divides his time between researching and lecturing all over the world and working in his studios in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Brussels, Belgium.
For the Mint Museum’s Project Ten Ten Ten commission, Joyce created Thicket, a sculpture located on the museum’s Sally and Bill Van Allen Terrace. Inspired by the history of blacksmithing, Thicket is composed of stainless steel rods and clusters of cast iron hammer heads. For Joyce, hammers symbolize “an inherent potential embodied within all tools employed in the hands of makers.” The hammer heads are made from a unique alloy that includes steel filings and iron grindings reserved from nearly all of Joyce’s hundreds of projects, which often used recycled metal. Thus, Thicket carries the “molecular memory” of cultures from around the world.