John Bisbee’s Nail Sculptures


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30 years ago sculptor John Bisbee was reclaiming objects for art in an abandoned house when he accidentally kicked over a bucket filled with rusty, old nails. To his surpris, the nails that fell out as one lump of metal. Ever since the Maine-based artist has used nails as his sole medium to create a stunning array of large-scale sculptures and installations, keeping true to his motto of “Only nails, always different.”

His works of art range from solid, geometric structures to dense entanglements of twisted wires to delicate, floral arrangements that flow across walls. “A nail, like a line, can and will do almost anything,” Bisbee says in an interview with American Craft. “What can’t you draw with a line? The nail is just my line.”

“You’d think that you would sort of choke off your options and potential, the more you keep excavating a single item, but I find it’s the opposite—it explodes. There are so many amazing tangents that I haven’t had time to take; so many great insights that are buried years back, so it’s ever expanding, this mundane object. I’m quite happy saying now that I will only work with nails.”


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